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Researcher Reveals Ways People in India Stay Cool Without Air Conditioners

The beach of Mahabalipuram on the Gulf of Bengal, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on January 22, 2017, in India. (Photo by Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)

Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar, a Seattle-based Aspen New Voices fellow, is researching the health impacts of heat, according to NPR

In a piece that he penned for the outlet, Azhar shares a few ways people with no air conditioner stay cool in his home county India, where “temperatures can soar as high as 120 degrees in May and June,” he writes.

So how do the people stay cool? One way is they consume “fruity drinks like sugarcane juice, coconut water, a tangy, raw mango juice called aam ka pana and an apple juice called bel ka sharbat,” Azhar writes.

“We also like cooling, milk-based drinks like lassi, a yogurt beverage popular in the summertime, and buttermilk. The key is to drink plenty of fluids to replenish the electrolytes lost in sweat and keep your body hydrated.”

Black Family in pool - GettyImages
Black Family in pool – GettyImages

Below are additional tips that Azhar says he “learned from my upbringing and elders in Uttar Pradesh,” on how to stay cool in the summer. Most Americans already know these things but just in case you need a reminder, here’s what he suggests: 

Find a cool spot to chill out.
Seek out the coolest parts of the building where you live and make that the place where you sleep or hang out. Because heat rises, lower floors in a multi-story house are cooler. Verandas are shady and airy. During the day, block out the sunlight with heavy curtains. Turn on any fans you have.

Use water in creative ways.
In India, we have a number of contraptions to manage heat without an air conditioner. That includes khus — grass curtains hung over doors and windows and sprayed with water. The curtains convert the dry wind outside into a fragrant, cool, damp breeze as it blows into the house.

Even if you don’t have khus curtains or a swamp cooler, you can find other ways to use water to regulate your body temperature. Take a cold bath or shower. Or take a light towel, called a gamchha in Hindi, dampen it and wear it around your neck or on your head like a scarf. This wet garb is omnipresent even now among men in the hinterlands and small towns.

How to stay safe and cool in extreme heat
During the hottest parts of the day, try not to burn energy or exhaust yourself by going out, exercising or standing outside, because the scorching sunlight and hot air will make you hotter.

Wear airy and light-colored clothing.
Choose airy cotton fabrics that don’t trap body heat, and colors like white, yellow and light blue that reflect light off the body. Darker colors absorb heat much faster, heating up our bodies.

Read the full NPR report here.

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