Summer in South Africa is no laughing matter. Everyone knows that sinking feeling when the weather report contains those red patches which indicate temperatures in the 30+ region. So what is there you can do, besides waiting for winter with bated breath? Quite a lot actually.
Avoid the sun. It sounds so simple, but clearly not everyone's doing this: stay out of the direct sun as far as possible between 10 am and 5 pm. Not only will you be cooler, but you will also not be suffering from the very unpleasant effects of sunburn. Seek out the shade or stay indoors.
Be an early bird. Organise your trips to banks and post offices and the supermarket for the early morning before the real heat sets in. Many shops are also open in the evenings. That way you can avoid boiling parking lots and other hot, tired customers.
Have a swim or a cold shower. Just remember that UV rays penetrate up to a metre into the water, so do take care. Lying on an inflatable mattress on the water could leave you with very severe sunburn. Cold water helps to cool down your core body temperature for quite a while after you get out out of the pool or the shower.
Cars are death traps. Don’t leave any children or pets in the car in the midday sun. Even with the windows open, on a hot day within minutes the interior temperature will be well into the high forties. This could be a real killer. This also seems obvious, but every summer there are instances of kids locked in boiling cars in parking lots.
Do a shutdown. Open windows in your home do not necessarily make things cooler. If a room does not get direct sun, chances are the temperature inside the house will be cooler than it is outside. This changes only when the sun goes down. That is the time to open up everything. Open doors and windows on opposite sides of the house - you might get a cross-breeze going.
Water, water everywhere. Your body sweats to cool you down and you dehydrate quite significantly in the process. If the temperature goes over 30 degrees Celsius, it is a good idea to drink up to eight glasses of water during the day. This holds true even if it is not hot. Keep a water bottle in your bag or in the car or on your desk.
Invest in air-conditioning. If you live in a place such as Upington or Pietermaritzburg, an air-conditioner is definitely worth it in the long run. Even if you only install it in one room, it could go a long way to making summer bearable.
Shield against the sun. This not only stops your car from getting damaged, it also stops the steering wheel from burning you if the car has been standing in the full sun for a while.
Go natural. Cotton allows your skin to breathe, unlike synthetic materials like nylon, which make you sweaty and uncomfortable.
Open up. Invest in a mosquito net and bars for your bedroom window or outside door, so that you can sleep with the doors or windows open. Just check your security arrangements.
Become part of the fan club. A fan goes a long way towards cooling things down. Putting a large plastic container of cold water in front of the fan also brings down the temperature quite considerably.
Emergency measures. If you are feeling the heat and you can’t seem to cool down, putting your hands, feet or face in cold water makes a big difference. These things can also be done at work in the office cloakrooms, or if you are working outside, in a bucket of water.
Hot, very hot. Don’t eat curried or other hot foods as they push up your heat levels. Salads and cold meats are infinitely preferable in the midday sun to braaied meat and oven-baked potatoes. And it is a healthier meal.
Time for a wet T-shirt? In an emergency, wrap wet towels round your feet or put on a damp garment.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated January 2012)