When most of us think of summer, we think of pool parties, grilling outdoors with friends, and family vacations. One of the challenges of summer can be the sweltering Midwest heat. We have been able to enjoy fairly decent temperatures lately. While it’s not “August hot” yet, a few days have felt like we’re stuck in one giant sauna. Every day in my subdivision, I observe construction workers, roofers, and painters outside for hours, baking in the rays. All the while I have wondered, how do they stay cool? Also, how do each of us stay cool during these hot, hot summer months? Here are a few tips which bear repeating on an annual basis: • Outside late morning or early evening. These are the coolest times of the day, and safest to be outside. • Loose and light. Wear loose-fitting clothing that is light in color. Cotton is ideal. • Freeze water. Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer. Take one with you when you go outside, and it will stay cool as it melts— who wants to drink warm water? • Hats are helpful. Wear a hat, which will minimize heat exposure to your body. Fill your hat with water or ice and put it on your head. The hat and ice combo will lower your body temperature and prevent overheating. • Search for shade. If you are outside in the heat, find any amount of shade to seek refuge. Sit down, drink some water, and give your body a break from the sun. • Mist of water, anytime. Keep a spray bottle of water in the fridge to mist yourself when you come inside from being outdoors. The hydration and temperature will help cool your body down. • Pay attention to pets. They have fur coats! Don’t leave pets outside for long, or unattended. Make sure fresh water is available. • Listen to your body. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke (there is a difference), and attend to yourself or someone else who may be struggling. Heat exhaustion, the body’s response to excessive loss of water, presents with any combination of these symptoms: heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting, paleness, tiredness, dizziness. The more serious condition of heat stroke, which involves the body being unable to control its temperature, results from the sweating mechanism failing and the body being unable to cool down. Heat stroke is a serious medical condition which can result in permanent injury or death. Pay attention to signs of an extremely high body temperature, confusion, dizziness, nausea, red and hot skin (dry, no sweating), throbbing headache in yourself or someone else. Think fast! If you or someone near you is suffering from a heat-related illness, begin the “cool-down” process. Seek shade for victim, use a tub of cold water, hose, or sponge to provide relief, and seek medical assistance. For those who like a good time in the sun with alcoholic beverages, keep in mind that alcohol plus heat equals dehydration, fast. Balance the adult beverages with generous amounts of water and breaks from the sun. Other vulnerable populations include infants, the elderly, overweight individuals, and those on certain medications. Summer is associated with fun, sun and a carefree way of living. It is possible to enjoy your summer without suffering from heat-related conditions. I’m sure that some of you who have experienced a heat-related condition can attest that they can be unpleasant to experience. I’ll close with a quote that speaks to that carefree way of living that we all seek about this time each year. Until next time, be well. “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawnmower is broken”. — James Dent Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.