Expert advice isn't so hot, even when it's 100 degrees out

August 05, 2006|By ROB KASPER

Having survived the recent string of 100-degree days, many of us are still reeling from the blast of advice dispensed this week about correct hot-weather behavior.

Every day, it seemed, we were subjected to yet more tips from more experts on how to deal with heat, conserve energy and generally conduct ourselves as responsible, if sweltering, citizens.

By yesterday, I was saying, "Enough already!" with the advice.

It is difficult to forge all these pointers into one cool, coherent lifestyle plan. But I am going to give it a try. Let's start with exercise.

Getting off the couch and jogging around the block is, we have been told, good for us. Except in extremely hot weather. Then, we learn, exercising can be bad for us. We can overheat, swallow noxious air and end up looking, feeling and smelling like a sour dishrag.

A better idea, I would think, would be to stay inside, sit on the couch, watch TV and sip a cold beer. Approved loafing, in other words.

No! No! No!, the experts say.

Drinking beer or any alcoholic beverage is frowned upon. Booze makes your body lose fluids. Moreover, the experts say, very cold beers should be avoided because they may cause stomach cramps. In addition, constantly opening the fridge door to fetch cold beers could, the energy misers warn, waste electricity. Gimme a break!

Staying indoors seems to be approved behavior especially if the indoor space is air-conditioned. A tip sheet put out by the Centers for Disease Control recommended taking shelter in -- I shudder at the thought -- a shopping mall. I would rather be left in a closed, parked vehicle -- another forbidden behavior -- than sentenced to time in a shopping mall.

Moralizers seem to me of two minds about the merits of watching television during a heat wave. On the plus side, watching television does not seem to be doing any harm to our bodies, other than rotting our brains. But on a down note, I read an editorial the other day in this very newspaper that advocated unplugging television sets as a way to conserve energy. Bummer.

The hot-weather experts also seemed to dish out some dicey advice on what to wear during a scorcher. Their edict dictating an outfit of lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, topped with a wide-brimmed hat, seemed easy enough to adhere to. But then came the kicker: We were not supposed to wash our clothes. Or at least we were not supposed to wash them during daylight.

Admonitions issued by energy-conservation nags said we should take care of our dirty laundry at night when demand for electricity is down. These experts, it seems to me, are creatures of the night. They are very fond of the dark, constantly urging us to pull the drapes and close the blinds. They also want us to wash our clothes, our dishes and presumably, ourselves, in the middle of the night. I already have this activity I like to do at night. It is called sleeping.

This sleeping thing also interferes with another nugget of expert wisdom, getting up early in the morning.

If we must exercise in hot weather, we should do so at dawn's early light, the experts say.

But they are quick to add that we shouldn't drink coffee to wake us up. Coffee, like booze, causes us to lose our precious bodily fluids.

So the next time a heat wave hits, we should, if I understand the experts, stay indoors, in the dark, with most of our household appliances unplugged, sipping water and wearing a loose-fitting if slightly stinky outfit.

Or we could sit on the sofa and sip beer or maybe an iced coffee. If anyone gives us any grief about our behavior, we can tell him or her where to go. That would be to a closed vehicle, parked at a mall.

rob.kasper@baltsun.com

Podcasts featuring Rob Kasper are available at baltimoresun.com/kasper.

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