How to ‘naturally’ cool down your body this summer

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  • Summers can get very hot on the African continent
  • Not everyone has the luxury of air conditioning
  • Some ice and light clothing can, however, help us stay cool

January is the hottest month of the year in South Africa, and many of us do not have the luxury of aircon – and the heat can often be unbearable.

Although our bodies are good at regulating our temperature, we sometimes need a bit of external (and internal) manipulation to be more comfortable in extreme temperatures. Here are some tips on how we can cool down our bodies on scorching summer days without spending thousands on air conditioners:

Make sure you stay hydrated

According to a paper published in The Nation’s Health, “staying hydrated is crucial to your body’s ability to cool itself”, and on those extra warm days, it is very important that you drink more water than usual in order for your body to regulate its temperature. 

This also means avoiding diuretics like caffeine and alcohol, which drain your body of the water it needs.

Apply ice packs to specific points of your body

If you have ice on hand, apply it strategically to your body. Applying ice packs to your neck, under your arms, wrists and groin area (if you feel comfortable doing so) is an effective method to cool down your body quickly.

Wear light, breathable clothing

On exceptionally hot days, opt for loose-fitting clothing made from fabrics like cotton and linen, as these are cooler fabrics and allow perspiration to dry faster than other fabrics. Also, wearing heavier or tight-fitting clothing increases your risk of heat-related conditions like hyperthermia.

Eat crushed ice

A study to assess the quickest way to lower body temperature (when there is the threat of heatstroke) is by eating crushed ice. It is very simple to prepare. If you have a blender, simply crush a few handfuls of ice cubes, or just use a clean plastic bag to beat the ice against a hard surface.

Important: Know the difference between ‘just getting hot’ and hyperthermia

In some instances South African summers can be dangerously hot, and it's important to know when someone is experiencing hyperthermia (heat stroke). 

Warning signs to look out for, according to Harvard Health Publishing, are:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Heavy sweat or a lack of sweat

If you or anyone you close to you (especially very young children and the elderly) are experiencing any of these symptoms, you immediately need to seek medical attention.

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