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Coping with the heat in Central Texas

Sunday, 5 August, 2012

When dealing with temperatures over 100 degrees consistently, especially when lodged in the majority of housing units (read: apartments, condominiums) in places like San Antonio or Austin, one must know one’s limitations. This can take years. Until the mid-80s, Austin in particular, was not as hot as it is today. Most housing units built before that time were no different than those in Minnesota or Oregon. They are simply not designed to remove heat effectively during the most critical four months of the year. This is why when you set the AC below 90 degrees, it runs constantly with poor results.

Here’s a shortcut. When you feel slightly faint, know that it is not diabetes or some other metabolic condition; it is the heat. The only cure is to remove heat from the body as readily as can be managed. This means cold showers, even if the water never really runs cool. Using such things as Witch Hazel, which is available in lemon scent, to provide sudden cooling. Try keeping a squirt bottle of WH in the freezer. Those new to Austin are stunned by the poor sartorial standards of the area which are a product of the majority of the year in which it is too warm for human habitation.

When you feel faint, if at all possible, take as cool of a shower as can be managed. The objective here is to induce hypothermia if at all possible. The ideal situation is to set the climate control of your home to a setting that just keeps it from running constantly, then lie, cooled, wet and naked on a flat surface, potentially a bed, under the air flow, until your constitution returns to normal. Remember, the objective is to cool the body as much as possible. The mere atmosphere will keep you warm enough to survive.

When such drastic measures are not possible, use ice on the lower arms, thighs, neck and head to the extent possible. Run cool water over the head. Find compassionate souls with adequate air conditioning in their homes. If they are long-term residents of the area, they won’t have any clothes on either and your need for cooling will not be considered peculiar. Wet clothing is an inconvenient but plausible option. You may be shocked by how quickly it dries under the circumstances.

If you are in Austin proper, the flowing 68-degree water of Barton Springs is always an option for a day of relief, but it only lasts until the next afternoon.

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