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How to Stay Cool Working in the Heat

When the summer sun is in the sky, you may be tempted to crank the AC to stay cool. But for construction workers, delivery professionals, and other outdoor workers, air conditioning is not an option. They need to figure out a way to stay cool working in the heat during hot summer months.

Staying cool and protected is essential for outdoor workers. It doesn’t just help your day be more comfortable, it’s also important to your personal safety. Long term exposure to the sun can lead to skin damage and even cancer. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be deadly if not properly addressed.

If your job requires you to work in the sun and heat, follow these tips to stay cool:

Stay Hydrated

You’ve probably heard this all your life, from parents, doctors, sports coaches, and more. But, we’ll say it again. Stay hydrated! When it’s hot, your body sweats to cool down your internal temperature. Help your body do its job and replace any water lost by drinking plenty of fluids. Start the day full hydrated, and drink frequently throughout the day. We suggest water, but a sports drink with electrolytes can also be helpful. 

Be Aware of Humidity

Agricultural expert and founder of Farminence, Shelvy DeVore advises, “When working outdoors, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the local weather. Don’t just pay attention to the temperature, but the humidity and heat index as well. It’s usually less hot and humid early in the morning, making working outside much easier. The temperature doesn’t peak around lunchtime like you might think, but usually sometime in the afternoon, between 2-4 p.m. Staying hydrated in the heat is essential, even if you don’t feel like your sweat is evaporating in the humid air.”

Avoid Dehydrating Drinks 

Avoid caffeinated beverages, which can be dehydrating. This includes energy drinks. They may seem like the perfect pickup in the middle of a long workday, but the high levels of caffeine can actually leave you more drained in high heat. Alcohol is also dehydrating, so avoid heavy drinking. Even after work hours, cut back or eliminate this drink during hot months. Your body can still feel the dehydrating effects the next day.

Eat Light Meals and Snacks

Avoid heavy foods, including protein-rich meats, when working in extreme heat. Your body creates heat when it breaks down these heavy foods. But, that doesn’t mean you should avoid eating! You still need to keep up your energy. Choose lighter foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables can also help replenish your electrolytes, so they are always a good choice.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

When it’s hot outside, wear loose-fitting clothing and light-colored fabrics. Select fabrics that breath, or have good airflow, such as cotton. Resist the urge to strip off clothing or go shirtless. Clothing helps protect your skin from UV rays. It’s also wise to wear a hat to keep the sun off your face and neck.

Use Sunblock

For exposed areas of your skin, apply plenty of sunblock. Pick an SPF rating of at least 30 to ensure adequate protection. Sweat can wash away your sun protection, so reapply the sunscreen throughout the day.

Cut Your Hair

Hair traps heat around your heat. If you aren’t dedicated to your current style, consider going short for the summer, or pulling it up off your neck in a ponytail or braid.

Wear Special-Effect Cooling Fabrics or Clothing

Construction workers that are out all day may consider investing in a cooling vest, which layers cool ice packs around your body to help stave off the heat. For shorter projects, consider getting a cooling neck bandana. These smart bandanas have crystals that, when dipped in water, will keep cool for hours. Or, try a smart cooling hat from Mission. Activate a cooling system in the hat by dipping it in water and then waving it in the air. 

Pay Attention to Your Body

Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you are thirsty, don’t push through it, stop to take a drink. If you are feeling exhausted, take a rest in a cool place. Sweat is natural, but if the sweating suddenly stops, you could be having heatstroke. Other signs include headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and shallow breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may need to seek medical care.

Change Your Schedule

If you can’t beat the heat, stay out of it. If possible, change your schedule. Some companies will shift summer schedules so that workers come in earlier, and are able to leave before the midday heat. GoShare delivery pros pick their own hours and may choose to avoid projects during extreme heat situations. In the event that extreme heat is preventing a customer from finding a delivery professional, GoShare’s customer service team will reach out and request to reschedule the project for a time when it is safer for the delivery pro (such as the evening). 

Other Resources

Looking for more helpful info? The blog posts below were written to help independent contractors as they navigate the gig economy.