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A guide to staying cool and comfortable in the sweltering January heat

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When the sun is out, you are likely to lose more water from your body through sweating.

Photo credit: File

As last year's short rains associated with the El Niño phenomenon fade away, some parts of the country are experiencing a rather hot January.

In Tana River County, residents are now facing extremely high temperatures. The hot, scorching sun is quickly becoming unbearable with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius during the day and remaining high at 30 degrees Celsius at night.

Here is how to stay cool when the sun decides to burn with elephantine fury in your area.

Hydrate like your life depends on it!

When the sun is out, you are likely to lose more water from your body through sweating. The more water you lose, the more likely you are to become dehydrated, which can lead to complications such as heat stroke. Drinking plenty of water during a heatwave will help keep your body cool and replace the water you lose.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends drinking a glass of water every 15 to 20 minutes during a heat wave. The caveat is that drinking too much water can also lead to a medical emergency.

People who remain dehydrated are likely to experience health complications such as kidney stones, low blood counts and seizures.

In addition to drinking water, other ways to stay hydrated during a heat wave include eating fruits such as watermelon, oranges and cucumbers. 

The American Red Cross advises people to stay away from beverages such as coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol when the sun's heat becomes unbearable.

Choose light clothes from your wardrobe

Wearing heavy clothes on a sunny day will ruin your day. While it is in our nature to regulate our body temperature, what we wear also plays a role in how we feel. On a hot day, sweating is inevitable.

This means that your clothing should be one that allows the sweat to evaporate on its own. Rather than having it stick to your body thanks to heavy clothing, loose-fitting clothes will help your body cool down faster than heavy clothes.

Scientists at Stanford University have developed T-shirts that can cool the body by about 5 degrees Celsius during a heat wave. Researchers at Ghent University say that wearing clothes that absorb moisture, such as cotton clothing, is the best choice in hot weather.

The Ghent researchers have also developed a fabric that absorbs heat and releases it on the other side to help maintain a cooler body temperature.

Watch what you eat

Did you know that heat waves affect your appetite? A study published by the National Academies Press looks at how hot weather can affect your eating habits. The study suggests that if you want to curb your appetite in the summer, turning off the air conditioning is one way to do it.

“People seek hot foods when they are cold, and cold foods, if any, when they are hot. Turning this prescription around, the conclusion emerges that hot foods ought to have a greater suppressive effect on appetite than cold foods,” explains the scientists.

The scientists also say that the more food you eat, the more heat you are likely to release. They also identify certain types of food that aren’t the best to eat on a sunny day.

The study shows that you should avoid eating a lot of protein-rich foods during a heat wave.

“Eating proteins, which are somewhat more complicated to break down inside the body than carbohydrates or fats, tends to raise body temperature very slightly more than these other two basic food components do,” the study says. 

 If you are indoors, keep your home cool

It is hot outside and even hotter when you are indoors. An air conditioner is a better way to keep your home cool, but if you can't afford one or the power goes out, you'll have to improvise natural ways to cool your home.

Closing your windows and doors during the day will help keep the heat out. If you have blinds, keep them closed during the day. Try to sit under shades that prevent the sun from hitting you directly.

If you have a veranda, sit on it when the heat becomes unbearable. Green spaces in your home provide the best shade.

Cold versus hot showers

If you are used to hot showers, you may need to switch to cold showers during heat waves. The World Health Organization advises that cold showers are better than hot ones on such days.

“You can also use cold packs and wraps, towels, sponging, and footbaths to keep cool,” advises the WHO.

However, some scientists say a warm shower on a hot day is better to keep your body temperature normal.

“A cold shower to 'cool off' might seem like a good immediate choice. We feel cooler because of the combination of the cold water and the decreased blood flow to the skin, but in fact our core will get warmer because of reduced heat loss from the body without skin blood flow. Some minutes later, we feel hot again,” explains the Conversation.