Heat Hacks: How To Stay Cool Without Air Conditioning

Kids in the pool
Kids cool off at the Glassell Park Pool. (Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC)

By Lisa Brenner with LAist/KPCC Staff

Warning Signs | Cooling Centers | Pets

Los Angeles is hot and getting hotter, with temperatures well above 100 expected in some areas by Friday. We have tips to stay cool and protect against heat-related illnesses, and we've also collected maps and links to local cooling centers.

Below you'll find practical advice from health officials, updated local resources, and DIY suggestions from formerly warm people. Do you have a dependable method for hacking your body temperature? Share your coolness on the Twitter or in the comments.

AND NOW A WORD ABOUT DRINKING

In the face of tyrannical temperatures, it's essential to stay hydrated. Failing to drink enough water can result in a number of dangerous defeats — including, but not limited to, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death. Not all beverages are on your side. To make sure you're imbibing only allies, follow these basic guidelines:

Tip: Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink water or electrolyte-replacements

Tip: Drink cool water, not extremely cold water (which can cause cramps)

Tip: Avoid sweetened drinks, caffeine, and alcohol

The CDC says that in extreme heat, you must increase fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. If engaging in "heavy exercise in a hot environment," they recommend drinking:

2-4 glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids every hour.

SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Faintness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Increased thirst

MORE SEVERE SIGNS

  • Diminished judgment
  • Disorientation
  • Pale and clammy skin
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)

HOW TO LOOK COOL

In times of excessive heat, authorities say to dress like you're on vacation. That includes:

  • Hat, preferably with a wide brim
  • Loose-fitting, light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses

WHERE IS THE CLOSEST COOLING CENTER

In L.A., Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties, call 3-1-1 or call for a list of cooling centers. In the city of Los Angeles, you can also find a list of recreation centers, senior centers and libraries — all good choices for cooling off — online.

Tip: Call the center in advance to make sure seating is available.

Tip: If the center you want is at capacity, or non-operational, head to a local, air-conditioned library and cool off with a book about ice fishing in Antarctica.

Below is a map of cooling centers provided by L.A. County, updated this year. Find somewhere in your neck of the woods to stay frosty:

You can get more details with L.A. County's full updated list of cooling centers here.

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PROTECT A PET FROM EXCESSIVE HEAT

  • Never leave a pet or animal in a garage
  • Never leave a pet or animal in a vehicle
  • Never leave a pet or animal in the sun
  • Provide shade
  • Provide clean drinking water

PROTECT A HUMAN FROM EXCESSIVE HEAT

Check in frequently with family, friends, and neighbors. Offer assistance or rides to those who are sick or have limited access to transportation. And give extra attention to people most at risk, including:

  • Elderly people (65 years and older)
  • Infants
  • Young children
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • People with mental illness
  • People taking certain medications (i.e.: "If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot," says the CDC)

OTHER STAY COOL TIPS

  • Kiddie pool
  • Lotions in the fridge
  • Eat spicy foods in the basement (or on the floor) while wearing a damp shirt and listening to the rain setting on your white noise machine
  • Make sure ceiling fans are running counterclockwise
  • Wet paper towels. Fold into ankle and wrist cuffs. Freeze. Wear. Repeat.
  • Build a DIY AC
  • Build a mini cold air fan
  • Build an "evaporative cooler for immediate heat relief"
  • Make a barricade of fans and ice cubes
  • Go to an air-conditioned public place (movie theater, for example)
  • Close all the curtains, preferably the heat-absorbing kind
  • Or open all the windows, depending on the breeze situation
  • Cool bath or shower twice a day
  • Wash your sheets before bed but don't dry them — put them on your bed damp (provided you're dealing with a dry heat)
  • Portable A/C unit

You can also check out some of our other previous stories about heat hacks:

This story has been updated and originally ran on KPCC.org in 2013.


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