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Working at Home in the Heat

July 11, 2012 4 comments

 

Trail of the Cedars, Glacier National Park

By now nearly everyone across the country has been to a stage of sweltering in the heat. It doesn’t matter where you live, except maybe in Western Washington, you’ve worked at staying cool.

When I talk about working in the heat, I’m not talking necessarily about laboring outside in it. Those who seldom leave the house, except for errands, are also at risk from heat. It depends on how cool the building is and how much air flow there is.

The heat affects all of us in similar ways. We get cranky when we get too hot. Tempers shorten as temperatures rise.

Attention wanders. Staying focused is possible but much more tiring at 95° than when at 70°. Dehydration begins to make its move and assaults the body, which has specific requirements. Thirst drives a person to intake more fluids, which results in more trips to the bathroom, which also pulls the attention away from your keyboard.

Sleep doesn’t come easily in the heat. There is no such thing as a comfortable position on the bed, couch, floor, hammock, or whatever reclined surface you can find. Sleeping on the porch isn’t an option either. It’s rarely much cooler out there than inside the house and other considerations remain; mosquitos, the odd stray dog, or worse, cat on the prowl.

Solutions? Oh, there are a few, but not many aside from air conditioning.

Let’s face it. We’ve become a society of wimps. Our pioneer ancestors—yes, even those in the 1940’s—didn’t need air conditioning. They worked, cooked, played outside with the kids, went to ballgames, etc. and all of it in the heat.

Here we are, subject to heat, many without blessed air conditioning. Take a crack at what the oldsters did. Put a big bowl of ice in front of the fan and let simple evaporation help cool you off.

Rearrange your work schedule, if you can, to move the most active part of your day to the cooler pre-dawn and early morning hours. Shift your priorities to help yourself. Decide how many cold meals you can prepare at one time. Cold soups, meats, fruits, etc. can help you think you’re cooler, even if you aren’t.

For those who snicker because they have air conditioning, remember this. You still have to go outside in it to get from point A to point B. That’s at least one chance to get your hand burned on a door handle, to burn the backs of your legs when derriere meets car seat or bench, to inhale vaporous flame upon ordering that snow cone from the corner vendor, who’s stood out in that heat to provide you with cold, soon-to-be-liquid refreshment.

But above all, realize that you’re not alone. Heat drains your energy. Even when you’re working at home or at the office, if you don’t have air conditioning, take it easy on yourself. A cool washcloth on the back of the neck does help. Keeping your feet cool drains more heat from the body than you might think, and make sure that keep sweating.

If your body is hot and you’re not sweating, you need medical attention. You’re headed into heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you’ve been there before, you’re more susceptible to it now. Stay safe everyone.