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Solutions for Desert Heat

Doing any high-movement activity in temperatures over about 85 degrees Farenheit can be an almost painful experience. Sure, hot, hot weather is great for beachcombing and getting sunburned, but most people hoping to move around would prefer a perfectly mild day. There are people that are so used to hot weather that it doesn’t bother them, but most of our bodies need to adjust and we have to help them do that. Finding a solution to heat is easier if you understand how and why you might be hot in the first place.


Heat does its job of warming you up in several different ways. When the air is hot, it will slowly cook you, sweat all the water out of you, and make you feel like you are melting. Add a bit of humidity in the mix and you will think you are living in an oven. The best thing you can do is find shade under a tree or rock until your body cools down. If you have access to cool water, dunk a shirt in it or get in and lower your body temperature.


Conduction occurs when the sun heats up everything around you. Think hot concrete on a summer day. This can also happen with rocks, sand, metal frames and dirt. If you’ve ever felt a desert rock on a hot summer day, it can nearly burn your skin, and heated metal most certainly will. In addition to being hot to the touch, the surrounding rocks and objects, when heated all day by the sun, will raise the local temperature significantly. Find an area with as many plants as possible since they stay cool even in the hottest temperatures. A patch of grass under the shade of a tree can be 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas.


Wind is a great thing when it’s cool and you’re warm, however it can feel like a blast of fire when it’s hot. Desert river canyons are notorious for getting hot blasts of air coming upstream during the heat of the day. When air in a valley heats up, it rises and it takes the path of least resistance – often a canyon – to reach the highest point. If you are already overheating, these blasts of hot wind are frustrating and exhausting. Take advantage of any breeze by wearing wet cotton and allow yourself to cool through evaporation.


Movement, as any athlete knows, makes you warm. The solution is simple: stop moving. Plan any travel, exercise, or athletic endeavor for the morning or evening. Naps in the shade are the best midday activity, especially if water is nearby. If you must climb, bike, hike, run, row during the hottest hours of the day, drink a lot of water, wear wet clothing and a big sunhat or visor.


Direct sun might seem too simple and obvious, but it undoubtedly heats you up right through your very own skin (the biggest organ in a human body). Think about the times you have basked in the sunshine on a cool day, allowing your face, hands, sometimes even back or belly to heat up. Remember those blissful moments and then avoid anything like that when you are playing in scorching temperatures. Cover up, wear a big sun hat, find shade.

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