With the hot summer season upon us, out comes the usual grumbling and complaints about how hot it is. Judging by the bland expressions on her face, I’m getting the impression my wife is tired of hearing about it from me.
“Well Honey…after all it is Summer…and in the Summer season it gets hot…. Instead of complaining why don’t you work out positive strategies on how to deal with it?”
She doesn’t actually say that of course…she is too nice and too good of a person. I have no doubt those thoughts go through her head on occasion though. I wouldn’t blame her if they did. To her credit, she keeps those kinds of thoughts to herself and I would imagine assumes I’m smart enough to solve the challenge of working outside in the middle of Summer without keeling over from heat stroke. After all I’ve made it this far. It does seem like Summers are hotter than they used to be. Scientists have told us the earth has warmed up 1 degree in the last hundred years. You wouldn’t think a person would notice such a small incremental change, and since I’m only 56 I’m only feeling a half a degree change….but I do feel it. Someone who doesn’t know me well may say I’m feeling the heat more because I’m older and heavier. Whatever.
Mark Twain made famous the quip, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” While funny, it gives one the impression that nothing can be done about the weather. Well, actually, nothing can be done about the weather. What we can do, is work out ways to keep the weather from impacting us in negative ways. Afterall, working in the Summer heat is not only not funny, it can be seriously dangerous. So, working out strategies to be able to work outside in Summer heat is always part of my game plan this time of year. If you have outside work that must be done on these dog days, here are a few tips that might make the job a little more manageable.
- Don’t work outside! While this may seem like I am changing the subject, this is really practical advice. If you have work that involves both inside and outside work. Plan your schedule so you can work inside on the hottest of days. This will require daily monitoring of the long-range weather forecast. Even in summer we have cool fronts push through about every 10 -14 days. The temperature may only drop a few degrees but the humidity may drop quite a bit. That can make a huge difference though in your comfort level while slogging through a Summer day. Look for those days and take advantage of them by working outside on them.
- Start Earlier. During the Summer we have long days. If you have brutal heat forecast and you have to work outside, there is enough daylight to work outside at 6am. If you work 6 am to 2 pm you can get your 8 hours in and not have to work in the hottest part of the day (between 2pm and 5pm).
- Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water. When it is really hot, I slow my pace, take more breaks and drink extra water. It is OK to work slower in the Summer. Give yourself permission.
- Use a fan. If you are working with electrical outlets nearby, use a box fan to blow air across your work area. If that won’t work, have a fan blowing on your break area. Fans are inexpensive, easy to set up, can quickly lower body temperature and are a huge asset for summertime working. Make it a part of your tool kit.
- Chase Shade. When it is really hot, direct sunlight on your body can quickly increase body temperature to the danger point. Look for ways to work in the shade. Plan your day around working in shady spots: trees, buildings or vehicles. Be willing to move your work area into shady spots as they develop (chase the shade). Anywhere, any way you can work in the shade, make it happen. If you don’t have shade, it is OK to bring shade. A beach umbrella or patio umbrella can make a huge difference in keeping your body temperature down on sunny days.
- Dress for the heat. Wear light colored clothing. It is cooler in direct sunlight. Lightweight cotton materials are best. At times we have to work in areas where there just isn’t any shade. I have a very large brimmed straw hat for those times. It doesn’t offer much of a fashion statement but it does help to keep my head and neck cooler, which makes a huge difference in comfort level while working. It also helps keep me from being over tired by the end of a day.
Heat exhaustion is a very real threat this time of year and nothing to laugh about. However, when you have to work outside during the dog days of summer there is no shame in chasing shade. Also remember to keep it all in perspective. In just a few months we will be complaining about how cold it is!