Have an ice day
1. Boost your qi
Summer heat consumes this vital energy, but proper diet can help the body adapt to climatic changes, says Dr John Fung of Integrated Chinese Medicine Holding's Herbal Medicine Clinic. For outdoor types, he suggests soups made with winter melon, mung bean, American ginseng, and lotus leaf, to clear body heat and promote body fluid and qi production. Those who mostly stay indoors may have difficulty sleeping, fatigue and poor appetite. Fung suggests drinking herbal tea to clear body heat and promote urination. Pungent foods like ginger and onion can help invigorate the lungs and facilitate sweating; lotus seed, common rush and bamboo leaf can clear heart fire and promote sleep; coix seed, hyacinth bean and euryale seed can invigorate the spleen and relieve fatigue.
2. Leave the lap clear
With the weather outside frightful, it's best to make conditions at home delightful. One way is to avoid using a laptop on your lap, as the heat from the machine transfers to your body. Research published in Fertility and Sterility found that laptops on laps can raise men's testicle temperatures by up to 2.5 degrees Celcius within 10 to 15 minutes, which could affect sperm production and quality, and harm reproductive health. Place the laptop on a desk instead.
3. Laugh about it
If you find yourself in a heated discussion, slow down. Think through your responses, and try using humour to defuse rage, relax a tense situation, and get a more balanced perspective, says Dr Jenny Tsang, a specialist in psychiatry and Health Post advisory panel member. 'Use humour to help face [the problems] more constructively,' she says. 'But avoid using harsh, sarcastic humour - that's just another form of unhealthy anger expression.'
4. Think mint
Using minty products leaves a nice cooling sensation. Try Origins Peace of Mind on-the-spot relief with a stress-busting blend of basil, peppermint and eucalyptus, and Murad Shampoo for Fine Hair, which leaves a pleasant tingly sensation on the scalp.
5. Stay fit
In a warm and humid endurance race, a well-trained person who is native to a cold climate may do better than a less-trained but well heat-acclimatised native to the tropics, says Dr Jason Lee, an adjunct assistant professor at the National University of Singapore and research scientist at DSO National Laboratories. For healthy adults aged under 65, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and eight to 10 strength-training exercises (eight to 12 reps each exercise) twice a week.
Run a fan and air conditioner (on low) simultaneously. 'A running fan increases ventilation and creates a wind chill effect,' says Angus Wong, senior campaign officer for climate with WWF Hong Kong. The fan also helps evaporate sweat and moves heat away from the body.
7. Bluetify yourself
Wear a blue top that's made using natural materials like cotton, linen and silk, says June McLeod, founder of colour therapy consultancy Colours of the Soul (www.coloursofthesoul.com) and author of a book of the same name. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians had used the colour to lower blood pressure. In the early 1950s, researchers had test subjects look at the colour blue - typically associated with calm and serenity - and produced the same result. 'Indigo blue was used for many years to lower blood pressure and cool the body, yet over time we found the whole of the blue spectrum being just as effective,' says McLeod.
8. Breathe through your nose
'This is something I learnt from performing yoga and the Buteyko Breathing Technique,' says Nathan Solia, director of Elite Personal Training Hong Kong, and Bootcamp. The technique emphasises nasal breathing, which restricts the amount of water expelled through an open mouth and allows one to stay hydrated for longer.
9. Freeze and spritz
Dr Barbara Lam, a specialist in paediatrics and Health Post advisory panel member, says: 'When heading out, always take a bottle of water which has been semi-frozen in the refrigerator, so that it can remain cool for a longer time. Drink plenty of water and regularly spray the face, neck and shoulder with water after being outdoors.'
10. Schedule your workouts
Try to exercise in the early morning - before the sun and humidity have taken effect - or in the evening, after sundown, advises Clinton Mackevicius, a fitness consultant and former Australian 1,500 metre champion. That said, if you're looking for an extra edge, he says 'it has been scientifically proven that training in high humidity and heat is akin to altitude training', which may lead to a faster performance in cooler climates. When training in the heat, keep training consistently, but modify the intensity by about 5 per cent to 10 per cent.
Hot and bothered? Don't sweat the small stuff. 'Simple relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help one to stay cool and calm during summer,' says Dr Jenny Tsang. Breathe deeply from the diaphragm and not the chest, while slowly repeating a calm word or phrase such as 'relax' or 'take it easy'. Or try non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises to relax your muscles.
12. Green your roof
According to the Architectural Services Department's 2007 Study on Green Roof Application in Hong Kong, local studies have found that roof surface temperatures can be dramatically reduced by about 18 degrees Celsius to 26 degrees during August and by 10 to 15 degrees during sunny days in November and December. Researchers in Singapore have found that this can translate to cooler room temperatures, and a net annual energy saving of around 15 per cent for a five-storey commercial building.
13. Stick to the pure stuff
Dr Donald Li, a specialist in family medicine and Health Post advisory panel member, says: 'Mineral water and balanced electrolyte drinks are good. Strong teas and coffees which make the heart beat and work harder are not advisable. Likewise, alcohol should be taken in moderate amounts. The ice cold beer chills and feels good, but the alcohol does not stop dehydration.'
14. Eat light and liquid
Oily and heavy foods can make body temperature rise, so keep cool with light meals such as sandwiches, vegetables and fruit. Load up on hydrating foods such as cucumber (300ml fluids per piece), or a cup of mixed greens (265ml), tomato sauce (205ml), or diced watermelon or cantaloupe (150ml).
15. Fight mites
House dust mites thrive in hot and humid conditions, and this can cause misery for allergy sufferers. Dr Adrian Wu, an allergy specialist and Health Post advisory panel member, recommends encasing mattresses, pillows, and duvets with mite-impermeable covers to reduce allergen exposure. Try installing HEPA filters in air conditioners to combat fine mite particles, and pack winter clothing in vacuum bags.
16. Shut the lights or change bulbs
Only 10 per cent of the energy used by an incandescent bulb produces light. The rest is given off as heat, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are an energy-saving alternative. Up to four times as efficient as regular bulbs, they produce about 70 per cent less heat and last up to 10 times as long.
17. Stand up to problems
Not being able to find solutions to problems can be very frustrating and make your blood boil. But Dr Jenny Tsang says the best attitude is not to focus on finding solutions, but on how you can handle and face the problems. 'Make a plan and monitor the progress along the way. Try your best, but don't punish yourself if an answer doesn't come right away,' she says. 'If you can approach it with your best intentions and efforts, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.'
18. Give the skinnies a break
Tight and sleek may be fashion forward, but in the summer, it's best to go for loose, billowy clothing, and those made of sweat-wicking material to keep you cool and dry. Dr Donald Li says clothing should be permeable to allow ventilation, and offer some UV protection. Smooth cotton wear is preferred. Don't forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat when you're under the sun, says Dr Tinny Ho, a specialist in dermatology and Health Post advisory panel member. It not only reflects the sun's rays, but also reduces your risk of skin cancer and minimises skin ageing.
19. Have a Slurpee
The slushy drink has been proven through scientific tests to be a more effective cooling aid than iced water. Preliminary research by Dr Jason Lee and his team have shown that it may boost exercise performance significantly, by improving the body's core temperature capacity.
It's not the heat...
At temperatures lower than 35 degrees Celsius, heatstroke is less likely. But high humidity, even with lower temperatures, can cause the condition, as well, says Dr Kenneth Tsang, a specialist in respiratory medicine. Watch for symptoms of heatstroke, such as headache, dizziness, disorientation, agitation or confusion, fatigue and hot, dry skin. There may also be a fast heartbeat and, sometimes, fainting.