Keeping Cool May Be Mind Over Matter

Sooner or later, every Dallas resident experiences the panic-inducing situation of an air conditioner breakdown in the middle of summer. An AC outage can be extremely serious for the elderly and infirm, as heat-related injuries and deaths remind us anytime that an unusually hot spell lasts more than a few days. But the able-bodied may be surprised to discover that it is entirely possible to stay cool without AC, if only for a little while.

Some techniques have to do with body chemistry; others are about fooling the mind and the senses. But these short-term suggestions might come in handy if your air conditioner repairman can’t get to you for another 48 hours.

Water is your friend. The more hydrated you are, the better your body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. By treating your internal and external parts to water and ice, you’ll feel cooler. Drink lots and lots of water – eight ounces every hour. Keep a damp cloth next to the back of your neck or on your head. It might make you a bit uncomfortable, but sitting in front of a fan wearing wet clothes will do just as well or better than blasting your air conditioner. Lie in a cool bath for a while, making sure to add cold water as your body adjusts to the temperature.

Air and sun aren’t the only things warming up your house. Turn off as many electric devices as you can – even turn off fans if you aren’t in the room. The heat generated by a fan’s motor actually does more to affect the temperature than the moving air does. Avoid using any cooking appliances other than the microwave, and stick to cold foods. You can also rig up a simple AC unit to cool you off – yes, even in Dallas in August – by placing a couple of liter bottles filled with ice in front of a fan. Cool misters are cheap and easy to come by and can serve as a portable cooling system if you need to be up and around.

It might sound a bit hokey, but turning your mind and senses to cold regions and snow can affect your physical sensation – or at least get your mind off the oppressive Dallas heat. Watch winter sports or a documentary about the South Pole. Read a novel set in a snowbound landscape. Finally, try not to move around too much.

An air conditioner that is out of order can be a very stressful thing if it happens to break down in the middle of summer in Dallas. But even if you can’t get an after-hours appointment with a repairman, it’s helpful to know that you can fool your body into thinking that the lack of AC is no reason to get hot and bothered.

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