It's Summertime in East Tennessee!
As East Tennesseans, we are fortunate to get to truly experience the four seasons each year. From lush green springs and sunny summers, to colorful falls and crisp, Smoky Mountain winters, we get to experience the best each season has to offer. Today is the officially the first day of summer, and the thermometer leaves no doubt it is gearing up to be a hot one. On these scorching hot summer days, it's important to remain aware of how much time we spend outdoors in the heat. Too much fun in the sun can lead to a variety of heat-related health risks, including potentially deadly heat stroke.
So, how do we keep ourselves and our friends and families cool while outdoors? We've made a list of 10 ways you can keep cool in the East Tennessee summer heat:
Choose loose, light-weight, and breathable fabrics like linen or cotton over synthetics. Opt for light colored as well, if possible. Light colors reflect light, which means you'll be cooler in white or pastels than you would be in dark clothes, which trap heat. And whenever possible, go for the baggy fit: loose-fitting clothes provide better air flow, which means you'll feel cooler. There are even articles of clothing that include SPF protection as well, which is also important when spending time in the summer sun.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Besides keeping your body hydrated, drinking water helps regulate internal temperatures. Keep your hydration levels topped off throughout the day and evening to ensure heat is being managed most effectively by your most powerful weapon - your skin (we'll talk about sweat more in #4). Tip: try freezing a bottle of water that can thaw into the perfect ice-cold beverage.
Watch what you eat. Drinking a lot of water is one way to stay hydrated during the summer, but it can also be done through eating foods that have high water content. This includes fruits and vegetables such as melons, cucumbers, lemons, grapes, leafy greens, and berries. Love spicy foods? You might be surprised to learn that spicy foods can also help cool your body down. Capsaicin, the substance in peppers that makes spicy food spicy, binds to the pain receptors in your mouth. In response, your brain interprets this as being hot, and makes you sweat, and the sweat on your skin subsequently cools you down. The brilliant part is that you can do all of this without actually raising your body temperature, making it a genius way to cool down!
Run through the sprinkler or have a good old-fashioned water fight with friends or family! Sweating is the natural way we cool down when it's hot outside - as it evaporates off our skin, we cool down. Sometimes too much sweating can result in dehydration. A couple of trips through a sprinkler or garden hose can significantly cool and refresh our bodies.
Plan outdoor exercise and activities for cooler times of the day like early morning or late evening. If that's not possible, consider scaling down the length or intensity of the exercise or activity.
Embrace the shade - under a tree! Shade from trees is actually cooler than shade from buildings and other man-made objects, thanks to a process called transpiration. A tree maintains its temperature by circulating water around inside itself and releasing moisture into the atmosphere to keep itself and the air around it cool. Buildings and cars, on the other hand, trap heat and radiate it back into the surrounding environment.
Take advantage of opportunities to keep cool in the community like public pools, splash pads and beaches. East Tennessee also has a large number of lakes and rivers that you can take a refreshing dip in. Always practice caution and only swim in designated areas.
Umbrellas are great for more than just rain. Consider using one the next time you go for a summer stroll. And while it doesn't release moisture into the air like trees, it's small size will minimize the reflected hear. It also will help protect you from the sun's UV rays.
Avoid drinking sugary or caffeinated beverages. People who consume caffeinated and sugary drinks while working in hot weather experience increased dehydration and may run a higher risk of developing kidney disease, according to new research.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Plan breaks from the heat. When it gets too hot out, plan an indoor activity like visiting a library, movie theater, or shopping mall until it cools down.
For many of us, the main thing stopping us from enjoying more of our summer days outside is the oppressive heat. But that's no reason to let the high temperatures keep us from enjoying everything that's wonderful about East Tennessee summers. Even when the thermometer tries to persuade us to stay indoors, there are still plenty of ways to 'keep our cool' safely, even on the sweatiest, balmiest, most downright scorching summer days.