Texas has always had hot summers, but it’s getting hotter.  For example, in the 1970s, the Brazos Valley area experienced on average 1 day per year with temperatures over 100 F.  Now, we average almost 12 days per year with temperatures exceeding 100F.  In 2023, we’ve already experienced 14 days of greater than 100 F and we just started August! Coupled with high humidity summers can be miserable for some and even dangerous for others. In this blog, we provide five strategies to beat the Texas heat this summer.

How to Beat the Texas Heat

  1. Hydrate

It should come as no surprise that staying hydrated will keep you cool during a Texas summer. The amount of water each of us needs on a given day varies greatly, based on factors such as our physical size, physiologic difference, medications we take, and the environment we experience that day.  Obviously, a large man performing physical labor all day in the heat will need much more water than a small female who stays in an air-conditioned space all day.

Therefore, it is not prudent to focus on drinking a given volume of water each day.  This is especially true because drinking too much fluid can also be dangerous.  Most of the “data” on how much fluid to consume in a given day has been generated by soft-drink and bottled water companies, not medical research.  Rather, let your thirst guide the amount of water you consume.  Our body’s thirst mechanism almost always does a good job of regulating the amount of fluid we drink.  

Finally, while the soft-drink industry would like you to believe otherwise, which type of fluid you drink does not make a large difference in your hydration status, as long as it quenches your thirst.  This is because even soft drinks are over 90% water.  However, avoiding sugary drinks is advisable for other health reasons, and electrolyte solutions (such as Pedialyte or Gatorade) may provide some advantages for extreme situations.

In summary, drink enough fluids, of whatever type you prefer, to avoid being thirsty.  This is usually all that is required to maintain enough fluid to produce sweat and cool yourself on really hot days.

  1. Stay in Air Conditioned Spaces

On days that are especially hot, staying in cool places will prevent the risk of heat-related health effects. Similar to thirst, avoiding the discomfort of overly hot environments is a good guide. When you feel hot, move to a cooler location.  Before spending prolonged periods outdoors, check the predicted temperature and heat index. Once the heat index exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit, there is an increased risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

If you must be outside, try to limit outdoor activity during the hottest part of the day between the hours of 10 AM and 5 PM. This is particularly true of strenuous physical activity.  If you must be out in the heat, be sure to take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors and drink plenty of fluids.

Even indoor environments can become very dangerous without air conditioning, especially for the elderly or those with chronic health conditions.  If you live in a situation without air conditioning, spend the hottest parts of the day somewhere cool, such as the mall or a designated cooling center provided by your local government.

  1. Cold compress

If you’re looking for a quick way to cool down, a cold compress will be your best friend to beat the Texas heat. In fact, when patients present to the ER with dangerously elevated body temperatures, one of the most effective ways to cool them is to apply wet sheets over their skin and point a fan at them.  You can make your own cold compress by doing the following:

  1. Wet a washcloth and wring it out so it is damp but not dripping with water.
  2. Place it in a resealable plastic bag.
  3. Put the bag into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Repeat as the washcloth comes back to room temperature.

4) Block heat from entering your home

Even with the A/C running constantly, it may be difficult for it to compete with the Texas heat. You can combat this by preventing excess heat from the sun from getting into your home. Here are some strategies for keeping extra sunlight out of your home on hot days:

  1. Close your blinds. Closing your blinds will reduce the heat entering your home. This is especially important for west-facing windows as they face the sun during the hottest part of the day.
  2. Use blackout curtains. Blackout curtains are not only good for keeping the sunlight out in the morning, but they are great for keeping the heat out during the day as well.
  3. Try aluminum foil. If all else fails, try putting aluminum foil on windows in rooms that get particularly hot during the day. Aluminum foil is great at reflecting heat away from your home to help keep it cooler.
  4. Storm windows.  Having an additional window mounted outside your existing windows can reduce the amount of heat moving through them.
  5. Sunscreens.  Window screen material blocks some of the sun from striking and heating the glass of the windows.  Some window screens can block the majority of the sun from hitting the windows.  
  6. Plant a tree.  Trees provide shade that reduces the heat gain in your home.  Plus, living near trees has been shown to reduce emotional stress and improve overall health.

5) Take a cold shower

While cold showers may not be as comfortable as a typical shower, they can be a perfect way to beat the Texas heat. They lower your body temperature and leave your skin feeling much cooler. If a cold shower is too intense, you can start with the water a bit warmer and gradually lower the temperature.

Closing thoughts

Texas summers can be dangerously hot, but following the above strategies will help with making the Texas heat more bearable. Too much heat can be not only uncomfortable but can also lead to a trip to the hospital, so be sure to follow these steps in this blog to stay safe this summer in Texas.