Houston 101

5 Weird Ways to Keep Cool When the A/C Goes Out

Let your footsies take the Polar Bear Challenge for some quick relief from Houston's stifling heat.
Let your footsies take the Polar Bear Challenge for some quick relief from Houston's stifling heat. Photo by National Park Service Climate Change Response via CC (public domain)
At this point our air conditioners have been chugging along, nonstop, for months on end. Which means there's an increased chance of something going awry. If the a/c does go out here are some tried and true methods for beating the heat and, when your HVAC repairperson does show up, thank him or her profusely. Can you imagine any worse job than having to climb into Houston attics this time of year?

The Polar Bear Challenge

In the running community it's not uncommon for athletes to take a full on ice bath to constrict blood vessels, flush waste products and reduce swelling in the muscles. You don't have to go full throttle, though. Build an ice bath for your feet and give those dogs a quick polar bear dunking. The pain will set in soon enough, so this isn't a longterm fix, but it can offer some respite from the heat. Insider tip: Last longer by using just a few ice cubes in chilled water.

The MacGyver

This invention is nothing short of brilliant. Using just a cheap fan, a styrofoam ice chest, a pair of PVC joints and some ice, you can actually replicate the air conditioning experience. If it's a battery-powered fan then this MacGyver-inspired contraption will even work during a blackout. We're definitely adding this one to our hurricane supply checklist.

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Pop those clean sheets into the freezer for quick relief.
The Kickin' It Old School

Throw some clean sheets into the freezer during the day and, right before bedtime, make the bed with those frozen linens. Put on some cotton jammies and hopefully you'll feel refreshed enough to fall asleep before your body temperature gets the bedding all hot and clammy again.

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There's a whole industry devoted to keeping us cool: from full body cooling systems to vests and towels, any or all of these will take the edge off the temperature.
The Survivalist

A quick search on Amazon.com and we unearthed a plethora of cooling garments. There's a Compcooler Backpack full body cooling system ($399), Ergodyne's Chill-Its 6230 cooling ice vest ($159) and an affordable Balhvit cooling towel for just $6.99. Build your new wardrobe at Amazon.com.

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Take advantage of the picante to get relief from the caliente.
The International

This one's a tip of the hat to other cultures. Whether it's noshing on jalapeños in southern climes, sipping on Chai tea in India or gorging on hot pho in Vietnam, the capsaicin in these spicy foods will produce gustatory sweating around the forehead and neck. Have lots of cold water on hand and balance that sweating with plenty of hydration.

We've had fun with this list, and some of these techniques might actually offer some relief, but the triple digit temperatures we've been experiencing are no laughing matter. The City of Houston Emergency Operations Center cautions that, to avoid heat exhaustion, it's important to stay hydrated and seek relief in places that are air-conditioned, like movie theaters, museums, shopping malls, public libraries and multi-service centers.

Learn to recognize the signs of heat stroke: if you or a loved one are experiencing throbbing headache, inability to sweat, a body temperature above 103 degrees, nausea (or vomiting), a rapid pulse or loss of consciousness, then it's time to dial 911. Pronto.

For the latest information and emergency alerts, visit houstonemergency.org.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney