7 Expert-Approved Ways To Beat the Heat While You’re Working from Home With Little (or No) AC

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We’re on track to have one of the hottest summers on record. And if you’re like many Americans who work from home, rolling out of bed with 10 minutes to spare before clocking in may be convenient, but missing out on the luxury of office air conditioning might have you feeling less than productive.

In fact, there’s science to back this up.

“There's research that has been hypothesized that the brain functions better in colder compared to hotter environments due to available glucose used by the brain, which is lower in higher temperatures as the body expends more energy to cool the body down,” says family medicine physician Kim Yu, MD.

Experts In This Article

Working from home can also mean you’re by yourself for long stretches of time, and sitting in a space without quality air conditioning. With no co-workers nearby to check on you, you could begin suffering from heat exhaustion without even knowing it.

Heat exhaustion is typically brought on after the body is exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time. Common symptoms include dizziness, increased thirst, heavy sweating, nausea, weakness, and muscle cramps. Dr. Yu says that if you begin to experience any of these after being overheated, it’s best to get to a heavily air-conditioned space and drink water. If you begin to notice worsening symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

“Heat stroke is also critical to recognize, as it can be fatal,” she adds. “Symptoms include feeling confused, a throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting, very hot, dry skin, loss of consciousness or seizures and rapid pulse. In those situations, call 911 as heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency, and take steps to cool down immediately.”

Thankfully, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are relatively rare. Yet even just breaking a sweat while working from home can be pretty uncomfortable. So, we rounded up seven of the best expert-approved tips to help you stay cool, even if you don’t have air conditioning or a fan.

1. Cool your pulse points

Your body's temperature is regulated by an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. It can turn your body’s temperature up or down by determining how hot or cold your skin is, and pulse points have the biggest influence on the inner workings of this.

Because your arteries are close to the surface at your neck and wrist, applying something cold to these specific pulse points can help cool your body down quickly, says Ava Shamban, MD, board-certified dermatologist, founder of AVA MD and Skin Five medical spas. She recommends using an orthopedic ice pack or a cool towel that can be put in the freezer and then worn around your neck while you work. You can also apply a cold compress to your temples and wrists.

2. Soak your feet in cold water

Just like applying something cold to your pulse points can cool your body quickly, sticking your feet in a bowl of cold water can provide the same relief. The bottoms of your feet and ankles hold heat, so changing the physical temperature of the skin in those areas is a great trick. And if a bowl of water under your desk doesn’t work for you, fill up a plastic water bottle halfway, freeze it and then roll it under your feet. You’ll likely want to be wearing socks while doing this, but bare feet is also totally acceptable as long as you keep rolling it. (No one on Zoom will know the difference.)

3. Shut your windows and curtains

It might sound like a no-brainer, but keep your windows and blinds closed on hot days. It can be tempting to let in fresh air, but when you do this, you’re letting in hot air and direct sunlight that will raise the temperature of the room, and it can take hours for that heat to dissipate. When the sun begins to set and the temps get below 75, feel free to crack a window, since this can encourage the indoor temperature to drop.

4. Stay hydrated throughout the day

With heat comes sweating. Since our cells are approximately 70 percent water, dehydration can lead to a loss of strength and stamina, flushing, fatigue, and fast breathing. No, not exactly your ideal work setup.

Dr. Yu recommends drinking at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day, and even more if you feel like your body needs it. “Health studies have shown that even mild dehydration can impair brain function and cause headaches,” says Dr. Yu.

Avoid heavily caffeinated drinks since these can dehydrate the body. But is plain water doesn't do it for you, try adding a splash of fruit juice or fresh mint to make it more enticing to drink. (Bonus: Peppermint is known for its cooling effects!)

5. Unplug devices that are not being used

If you live in a small space and don’t have a lot of room to move around, all your charging cables, cords and electronics can quickly heat up a room without you even knowing it. Make it a habit to unplug your TV when you’re not watching it, unplug your phone charger when it’s not in use, and even unplug your coffee pot or toaster. Your electric bill will thank you, too.

6. Prioritize nighttime recovery

Your nighttime routine is a great way to set you up for success for the next day. Dr. Shamban recommends a cool shower in the evening to keep your body temperature lower throughout the night so you wake up refreshed. She also says to opt for loose-fitting pajamas made out of linen, silk, or lightweight cotton, and to hydrate as much as possible before going to bed.

“We cool down by convection, radiation, and perspiration,” she says. “All three are supported by sweating, so you need to be hydrated to perspire enough to reduce body temperature.”

7. If you can, move locations during the hottest part of the day

If all else fails and you’re having trouble staying cool in your home, head somewhere with central air conditioning. Get your afternoon cold brew fix at your favorite coffee shop or take advantage of your local library or a college campus’s free wifi.

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