How to Keep Your Cool in a Heat Wave

Our top eight ways to stay cool in a heat wave

Coraline just had her second birthday on Thursday. We planned a family barbecue, and the flurry of activity that accompanies hosting a gathering of 20 distracted me from a forecast of 100-degree temperatures. “It’ll be fine,” I kept saying. “The party is at the end of the day, it won’t be that bad.” Thirty minutes before guests arrived, Coraline was running around the backyard in her birthday suit while her dad and I, wet and wilted from the heat, hustled to get the last details set. Yeah right, “not so bad.” It was positively sweltering. But despite the oven-like setting, Coraline had a fantastic time, as did we all once we embraced our red faces and damp shirts and resigned ourselves to sweat it out.

Party day or not, this heat wave is hard to handle without air conditioning. At least once a day I’m tempted to get one, until I think of all the energy it uses (and the cost of all that energy) — a medium-sized air conditioner uses roughly 10 times the wattage of a large ceiling fan running on high speed. While I won’t lie and say these high-temp days and nights aren’t awful to endure, I can say I’ve happily discovered a number of low-cost, eco-friendly ways to make them at least more tolerable.

  • Turn off your stove, oven, and dryer during the day. Instead, cook and do laundry at night when it’s cooler. Or, just eat lots of cold salads and high-water fruits and dry your clothes outdoors.
  • Turn off the lights and draw the curtains, especially in bedrooms: Furniture absorbs and retains heat, so by keeping rooms dark and relatively cool, you’re setting the stage for a more comfortable evening.
  • Two-way window fans are boss. Because they circulate the air, their cooling effect is remarkable — especially in stuffy upstairs rooms. Plus, they’re far less accessible for little fingers than floor fans.
  • Make your own sugar-free ice pops for a quick, guilt-free way to cool off busy little bodies. Blend favorite fruits and veggies with yogurt or coconut milk for optimum nutrition.
  • Scope out the public pools not only in your own town, but those nearby to find the most affordable times to swim. Some pools offer specials during non-peak times — like the Moriello Pool in New Paltz (which has an amazing kiddie pool) where they charge just $5 after 5 p.m. And morning swim classes can be a good way to get in some pool time before nap, when most town pools are closed to the public; resident rates can mean rates as low as $4/class for babies/toddlers.
  • Make like a two-year-old and shed some layers. Or at least dress in breathable fabrics like cotton or linen.
  • Schedule your day so you spend the hottest part doing nothing. A hot day seems that much hotter when you’re zooming around running errands or trying to do chores. Sit in the backyard with a giant glass of ice water and your feet in the kiddie pool, or spend the afternoon in someone else’s air-conditioning (like at the library).
  • Sit in a tub of cool water (a few inches to a foot) while you breastfeed to minimize the clamminess factor.

Got any other hot-weather tricks for staying cool? Share them!

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