Winter or summer, it's good to keep a lid on it

August 02, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

It's another one of those hot-hazy-humid days, and the experts are telling you to drink plenty of fluids, wear light-colored clothes and put on a hat to keep cool.

But even in your heat-addled state, you remember those same experts just last winter telling you to stay dry, wear layers of clothes and . . . put on a hat to stay warm.

So which is it: Do hats cool or warm?

Both -- but it depends on the hat.

"Different hats for different reasons," says Dr. Brian Browne, associate director of the emergency room at the University Hospital in Baltimore. "The same mechanism is taking place. In the summer, you want to allow heat to leave your body, but in the winter you'd like it to stay in."

While wearing a hat in the summer may prevent some of your body heat from escaping, it performs a more important function: It shields you from the sun's rays, which can burn your skin and transmit heat into your body.

"The beneficial effect of deflecting the solar load -- keeping the heat from the sun from entering your body -- outweighs the small amount of insulation the hat is providing," says Dr. Murray Hamlet of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass., which conducts studies on heat, cold and altitude.

The heat experts agree that the best summer hats are those that shield you the sun, but are light and airy enough to provide some ventilation of your body heat -- something loose, with a wide brim and made of straw or open material.

"You don't want a hat that will be like a little oven on top of your head," says Dr. Dan Morhaim, chairman of the Franklin Square Hospital Center's emergency medical department. "Something that allows air to circulate through it is better. Not everyone thinks a big, loose hat is fashionable, but it does protect you from the sun."

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