Staying Cool in the Summer Heat
Last updated: May 2023
With summer almost here, it's a good time to talk about tips for staying cool. For those who are newer to their heart failure journey, heat makes your heart work harder to maintain a safe body temperature. So, when your heart is already compromised (i.e., heart failure), you are at higher risk of the harmful effects of heat, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
How to stay cool in the summer heat
It's important to know how to stay cool. I will leave dehydration out of this article because many of us are also on fluid restrictions. This topic is best discussed with your medical team, as well as when you know you need to seek medical attention.
Here are a few strategies I've discovered since my diagnosis:
Plan your day accordingly
- Avoid extreme physical activity in the heat.
- Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Try to plan around this. For instance, wait until it's dark outside for your daily walk.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and materials that can breathe. If you go outside, wear a hat and sunscreen.
- Also, if you go outside, seek shade. The simple act of finding shade can make it remarkably cooler. In fact, at times, the outdoors may be cooler than inside, especially on very sticky and hot days.
Make adjustments in your home
- Keep your house cool by covering windows exposed to direct sunlight with shades, insulating the attic if it's not done, and turning on the air conditioning when needed. If you do not have or cannot afford central air conditioning, consider at least a window unit and closing the door, so you have one cold room in the house when needed.
- Also, depending on the climate where you live, outside at night might be cooler than inside, making it advantageous to open your windows at night. Again, it depends on your specific climate.
- I have several fans and a cooling tower. However, keep in mind that cool is cool! Increasing air circulation and/or a cooling tower can help. However, when it gets really hot and sticky, you are moving around hot air. There are times when we just have to crank up the air conditioning. (If you do not have central air, please consider a window unit so you have at least one cool place to sleep and consider spending time in places like a mall, movie theater, or cooling center that have temperature regulation. Getting overheated is no joke medically AND does not feel good.)
- Think about having the appropriate sheets as well. Sheets made from natural linens, like cotton or linen, are the most breathable and thus coolest.
A few other tips
- Enjoy cold foods, such as salads and fruit. Keep in mind that some fruit has a high water content, and if you have fluid restrictions, these still apply. Please talk to your medical team about fluid restrictions in hot weather.
- I have several ice packs, including smaller ones I put in my armpits and larger ones I lay on my stomach.
- I also try cooling eye masks and a frozen towel around my neck when I need extra help lowering my body temperature.
- Be aware of getting into a hot car. I know it can use extra gas, but just like in the winter when I heat the car up before I get in, I do not get in a hot sticky car either.
Does anyone else have ideas to stay cool? My next project is to investigate cooling pillows. Let's work together so we all can stay safe yet enjoy the summer to the best of our abilities.
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