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Why humidity might make staying cool a little harder amid heatwave

This California heat wave is no joke. Preventative and occupational medicine expert Dr. Sheri Belafsky gave us some tips to avoid overheating.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — People have been experiencing some weird, muggy and painfully hot California weather over the past few days. For some people, staying cool might be a bit of a struggle.

Dr. Sheri Belafsky, of UC Davis Health, said that, as Californians, we're used to being able to step into the shade for a break from the heat, but with the humidity, we lose that ability.

"The excess humidity makes it even harder for us to stay cool," she said said .

According to M-I-T’s ‘Ask an Engineer,’ “On humid days, when the air is already saturated with water, sweat evaporates more slowly. This explains why it feels so much hotter in high humidity.”

To stay cool on a hot and humid day, Belafsky stressed the importance of staying hydrated. 

"That means water," Belafsky said. "It doesn’t mean caffeine and alcohol-- those are dehydrating. Our choices in what we’re drinking makes a big difference."

She suggests finding a place to stay cool, whether in your home or at a pool. Belafsky says a cooling center can also do the trick. 

"Put on a mask and social distance—go to a cooling center if you need it," Belafsky said. 

Limiting activity can be beneficial as well. 

"This isn’t a time for great exertion," Belafsky said. "This is a time to take it easy."

Belafsky also added that, if people choose to exercise, they should make sure it’s early in the day. People should also be mindful of how much water they are consuming before and after. 

For those working on hot, humid days like these, Belafaski said to take adequate rest and water breaks. She said what people are wearing can actually help too.

"Apparel makes a very big difference. Choose breathable light fabric when working outdoors," Belafsky said.

She said it’s always a good idea to check up on elderly friends and neighbors. 

"We could reach out to them by phone or even a knock at the door and make sure they have their air conditioner on," Belafsky said. "And if they don’t or can’t afford to, help them get to a cooler place."


PG&E says up to 250,000 customers could face power outages due to a dangerous California heatwave