Dispelling myths, revealing truths about keeping cool when in the heat

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It may be a good day to get out on the boat, but should you wear white, or black to keep cool? (MyNorthwest.com Photo/Hannah Kadletz) | Zoom
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Tuesday was another hot day - 83 degrees reported at Sea-Tac Airport at 2:47 p.m. - and you might be looking for quick ways to cool down.

Since the home improvement store was probably out of portable air conditioners when you got there, you're going to have to suffer like the rest of us.

But we're here to help.

The beverage you choose is very important. I think most of us realize that while a cold beer goes down smooth in this weather it will actually dehydrate you. The same goes for drinks with caffeine.

But since avoiding coffee in this town is unlikely, try going with an iced version.

And while hot tea is believed to cool you down because it makes you sweat, Doctor Matthew Jaffy at the University of Washington's Northgate clinic said it's best to go with a colder beverage. "Sometimes people think about room temperature or hot beverages to try to cool things down, but it actually makes more sense to drink colder fluids," he said.

Your best bet is to drink water.

On to foods: There is a common myth that eating spicy foods will keep you cool. Again, it's because they make you sweat, and when sweat evaporates it does cool you down. "The spicy foods definitely get a sweat going and maybe that helps to cool people down a little bit more, but I don't think that there is any scientific evidence behind eating spicy foods as a specific means of cooling your body temperature down," Dr. Jaffy said.

How about jumping in a cold shower? While it will feel really good, it doesn't really bring down your core body temperature so you'll get right out and be hot again.

What about clothing? We're always told to wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and avoid anything black. There is some research that wearing black is probably better. Not only does it absorb the heat from the sun, it absorbs the heat coming off your body and draws it away from you.

White clothing will reflect the sunlight, but also reflect your body heat back at you.

You can test that one for yourself.

Finally, there is the "dry heat" question. People in Las Vegas always say "sure it's 110 degrees, but it's a dry heat."No humidity means it's more bearable to the human body to deal with heat. When it's humid, the sweat does not evaporate, and that keeps us from cooling down.

Dr. Jaffy said that's true. So a dry heat is much better than dealing with humidity. That's not going to make you feel any cooler today, but I thought you should know.


Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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