When people from other countries think of Australia, they think of sunshine, beaches, fresh air and the perfect climate. When they arrive, they find that while that’s all true, there are days when the heat can be overwhelming.
Happily, there are ways you can beat the heat so you can still enjoy every single day and night and not feel as though you’re going to melt into a puddle on the floor!
Keeping your body well hydrated is a way of beating the heat from the inside out. When you’re hot, you sweat and it’s the evaporation of sweat that helps to regulate your core temperature. Imagine you’re trying to sleep in a room where the air is hot and still.
By taking a spray bottle of water to bed with you, and putting the ceiling fan on, if you struggle, you just spray your skin with the water (or use a damp washcloth) and as the fan evaporates the water, you feel cooler.
But in order for your sweat to keep flowing, you need to replenish the fluids in your body. Drink plenty of water at all times, particularly when exercising, when the air is humid and when your appetite is low so you haven’t consumed much fluid in the form of fruits, vegetables or beverages.
Aside from water, try coconut water which is a pure and natural form of electrolytes that keep your minerals at a stable level in your blood. Dehydration headaches can be eased by a drink of coconut water because it’s the depletion of those minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium) that shuts down non-essential functioning, the dryer you get.
There’s a reason why shopping centres are so busy in the summer months and it’s often not reflected in sales figures. Many people go to the cinema or food court simply to hang out and enjoy the free air conditioning.
You’ll notice a lot of elderly people having lunch or sipping tea with friends, because it’s cooler (or cheaper) to do so at the shops than it is at home where the cost of the electricity is on them.
Visit an aquatic centre, local swimming pool, theme park, beach, lake, creek or river. Sometimes just being near the water is all you need but if you can go for a swim, make sure it’s a safe environment. Don’t venture into surf unless lifeguards are nearby and never dive into waterways if you don’t know how deep they are.
It should go without saying that cool or cold, fresh, healthy foods will suit you best in hot weather. What you need is nutrient-rich foods because you may not feel like eating so often or so much because the heat can cause appetite reduction.
Try cold soups and raw foods. Feast on fresh salads, maybe with some poached chicken or some ham off the bone. The less time you spend cooking, the more time you spend cool as a cucumber.
Remember one thing though, some of the hottest countries of the world eat some of the hottest foods in the world. It goes back to the whole perspiration thing.
When you eat hot foods like chillies, curries and other spicy dishes, they cause you to perspire, helping your body to cool down. In India and Mexico, for example, a blistering curry or a piquant molé are standard fare, even on the hottest days.
Some herbs have cooling qualities and can cool you from the inside or the outside. Think of mint; peppermint or spearmint applied to the skin instantly refreshes and cools, doesn’t it? That’s why mint features in foot rubs, foot soaks, body wash, facial products and of course, toothpaste.
It contains menthol which is a natural compound that stimulates your skin’s cold-sensitive receptors. But it also refreshes when you eat it so toss some chopped mint through a salad or cold soup or make your own peppermint tea, simply by infusing the fresh, washed leaves in hot water. You can drink it hot or cold.
Coriander is another cooling herb which is why it is added to so many dishes in Mexico, Spain and India. Fennel is consumed in India after meals to cool the body on the inside and help break down food and ease intestinal stress. You can either chew the seeds or brew them with your favourite tea.
When you’re really, really hot and can’t seem to cool down, a great way to do it is to apply an ice pack to the back of your neck, to your forehead or to the inside of your upper thighs. Wherever you notice your skin is red is where your body temperature is spiking so by applying ice to that area, you will send cooler blood around the body and cool down your core.
When it comes to showering or bathing, however, it is often better to keep the water tepid, instead of cold. Shocking the whole body with cold water can cause it to react by shivering which then raises the core temperature. Or, simply place your bare feet in a bucket of cold water.
You can keep cool using any of the above remedies but Aussies also know that the best way to beat the heat sometimes is to ignore it.
Be sociable, go to the pub for an icy cold beer, invite friends around for a dip in the pool, eat prawns on the veranda, have a water balloon fight in the back yard … if you make it fun, you’ll soon forget how hot you are and remember how much fun and free summer can be.