Phew- it’s hot in Oregon, today! In fact, we’ve got a heat wave that is expected to last at least through the work week. With highs in the 100’s, industry workers outside are going to be feeling the heat, literally. While places in the South might scoff at these temperatures, one of the large problems is that we aren’t necessarily prepared for such heat. Many homes built in the Pacific Northwest simply have no air-conditioning, because it’s just not necessary during a typical year.
The New York Times mentioned that in Seattle, only 1/3 of all homes have air-conditioning.
“Much of the country is used to occasional 100-degree days. Seattle, which has had just three in the past 123 years, is not.” -NYT
Portland is in a better place than Seattle as far as A/C goes. Roughly 70% of housing units include some form of Air Conditioning. Those without though aren’t totally out of luck – there are a few places you can go, and things you can consider to cool off.
Hot in the Pacific Northwest? What can you do?
If you work outside, take multiple breaks
If you work outside, take multiple breaks
If you’re out testing backflow prevention devices in this heat, bring a LOT of water with you! To make sure you have cool water each of these days, you can freeze water bottles the night before. Make sure they aren’t totally full though, or the ice will expand and the bottle will explode.
Whenever you take a break, try to find some shade if you can’t find get out of the heat directly. Fresh fruits can also be refreshing and cooling. Your body will sweat much more than a regular day; don’t hydrate with iced coffee or tea if you can help it, but head straight to non-caffinated, non-alcoholic beverages like water, Gatorade, or fruit juice.
Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion
When you’re not used to working in this type of heat, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re just hot. In reality, straining your body when the temperature is this high can put you at huge risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Some of these signs include headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Don’t overlook these signs, and head for a cooler area and hydrate immediately.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if you don’t immediately deal with it. (Get out of the sun and get hydrated!) If possible, consider working with a partner so that you can keep one another accountable. If you notice a fellow worker suddenly seeming confused or lethargic, call 911, as these are signs of heat stroke. It’s okay to not be a hero who works in blistering weather; be responsible, and recognize the difference between being hot and being in danger.
Utilize Senior Cooling Centers
In the Portland or Seattle area, many senior cooling centers are staying open until 8pm, when the worst of the heat each day has subsided. There are many that are not just in the city, but further out in the suburbs as well. Portland lists can be found here, and Seattle has a list here. If you call your city hall, they will point you in the right direction to be able to get out of the heat. These centers aren’t just for staying at to cool down; many seniors with little income are eligible for free fans and other
Make it a movie afternoon!
I always wear a sweater to the movie theater even in the dead of summer. Why? Because they’re always freezing! If you need to, try catching a matinee showing (usually cheaper anyways) and see a movie you wouldn’t necessarily have gone to. You’re going to be in a cool environment for over 2 hours. Maybe skip the sweater this time around.
A few other places that you can try to get out of the heat include libraries, coffee shops, and museums. Oh! And don’t forget those indoor swimming pools, too! Just remember, staying hydrated is just as necessary at the pool. Hey, get ahead of that Christmas shopping now; you’ll find shopping malls are always cool and you can beat all the crowds since you’re 4+ months early. (Okay, okay … that’s not my best idea to date.)
Jonesin’ to get in that run? If possible, exercise in a gym that’s well cooled. If that’s not an option, exercise on well-lit streets once the sun has gone down, or before the sun starts baking the asphalt in the morning. With the extra heat, you are likelier to get heat cramps than in cooler weather. If at possible, exercise with a buddy so that if one of you starts to feel the effects of the hot temps, there’s someone who can help or call for help if necessary. You know your body; if you notice you’re feeling less than great, stop and head home.
Remember your pets; they’re hot in the Pacific Northwest too
Have outside dogs or cats or other furry pals? Consider bringing your animals inside if you have A/C. If you’re hot, your animals are as well. Other options can include leaving more water out than you normally would, and freezing water bottles for smaller animals to lie next to.
We have a small kiddie pool that one of our dogs love to play in. (Our other lab-mix claims he’s allergic to swimming.) We rinse the pool out every 2-3 days so that the water is consistently cooler, and we keep it in the shade. (Just a tip, if you do this, consider throwing in mosquito dunks. They are a life-saver!)
If you’re looking to use a senior cooling center, call ahead – you may be surprised that some centers accept pets under 25 lbs.
I shouldn’t have to mention this, but I will. Never leave your pets in the car during the summer.
At the end of the day, a cool shower or cool bath can help reduce your body temperature as well. Since sun burns can make you feel warmer, make sure to keep that sunscreen on.
To the rest of the country: how do you do this each Summer? While you may be a little more used to the heat of 100 degree days, keep in mind you can also benefit by drinking plenty of water, and taking multiple breaks throughout the day if you work outside.