Healthy Travel

Beating the heat as you travel to the tropics

It’s hot. Damn hot.

Beating the heat as you travel to the tropics

It’s so hot… I just saw a chicken lay an omelet.

It’s so hot, even my sweat is sweating

I swear to you…it’s so hot, I just saw two trees fighting over a dog!

Ok, you get the point – the thermometer is registering some absurd numbers.

Of course, you may be reading this in the dead of winter in your hometown, where it gets dark at 4:30 pm, your car won’t start until noon, and you wake up with icicles on your nipples.

But, simply hop on a flight to the tropics and you’ll be met with sunshine and high temps nearly all year long.

While that sounds like paradise, where you can lounge on the beach and get your tan on, the reality is that the heat is no joke in many climates, something that absolutely affects your health and can even be dangerous. If you’re staying in a hot climate for longer than a week (which you spend by the pool or in the ocean), you’ll probably have to deal with obscene temperatures in day to day life, which certainly isn’t as fun.

In fact, I did a little research for ya thanks to Google, and here heat sickness has some serious physical manifestations;

When your body temperature rises due to external temperatures and sun exposure, your body starts working hard to normalize your internal temp, with your heart rate increasing as it tries to send more blood to surface areas. But, when that happens in extreme or prolonged cases, you have less blood for normal functions like muscles, internal organs, and brain activity.

Believe it or not, but an average of at least 600 people die each and every year in the United States alone due to extreme heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Incredibly, extreme heat and high temps kill more people every year than floods, tornadoes, lightning, hurricanes, and earthquakes – combined!

No bueno.

Even 80-90 degrees will tire you out if you’re not acclimatized, but once it hits 90 degrees F, heat exhaustion becomes a possibility. When it’s over 100 degrees, heat exhaustion is very likely, and heat stroke is coming.

Luckily, we have some great tips for you to deal with the heat.

Stay in the shade:
It sounds obvious, but you’ll be amazed at the temperature difference between straight sun and a little bit of shade when you’re in the tropics. It feels like the temperature is 20 degrees lower in the shade.

No, beer doesn’t count. Ok, it counts if you drink it with ice and a lime like I do. But seriously, make sure you chug A LOT of water every day while you’re in the tropics, especially since your body will be adjusting and you might be dried out from being on an airplane, too. Gatorade is fine, but it’s all sugar, so drink a “Nature’s Gatorade” every day – coconut water.

Slam a glass of (clean) water in the morning, before you eat each meal, and carry around a water bottle with you at all times when you’re out in the sun or outdoors.

AllWorld travel tip: DO NOT rely on your body to tell you when it’s thirsty and needs fluids. Most people don’t feel thirsty until their body loses fluids equivalent to about 2 percent of their body weight!

Avoid alcohol:
It’s tempting to reach of the booze while you’re on vacation or living the dream in the tropics, but that might dehydrate you more in the long run, and can exacerbate the effects of alcohol. Plus, there’s NOTHING worse than a Booze Cruise sunburn/hangover/dehydration sickness. If you will drink, try to keep it to light beers and slam a water in between each beer.

I should mention that coffee can also dehydrate you, but I would never suggest you stop drinking the java. That’s crazy talk!

Waterproof clothes:
I’m a sweater. No, not like a big fuzzy warm thing your grandma knitted for you, but someone who sweats A LOT. After eight years living in hot and tropical climates, I can manage the heat but the humidity just kills me. Anyways, instead of sporting awkward and unsightly sweat patches on everything I wear as I walk around all day, I wear dry wick clothes whenever possible or, my personal favorite, basketball jerseys. They repel moisture, dry super quick, don’t get mildewy – and keep you cooler because they breathe.

Sport a hat:
It may sound simple, but it works – wearing a baseball cap or one of those big goofy beach caps actually keeps you way cooler because the sun and heat will be off your head, and it also creates partial shade.

Dip it in water:
When you’re on a boat, the beach, or just walking around and absolutely melting with the heat (and you don’t want to jump in the water), take your ball cap or hat and dip it in some cold water, whether it’s ocean water or putting it under a tap. Then, put it on soaking wet and all. It actually cools you down a huge amount and the wet hat will keep your head cool and lower your body temperature for about twenty minutes until it dries.

Bandana or towel:
Since I’m a profuse perspirer (making up words again) in the high humidity of the tropics (or whenever I have to talk to a woman I like. Eeeek!), I carry around a bandana or a little white towel with me at all times. Not only is it great for dabbing at sweat, but it can be put over my head for shade, used as a fan, or used to dry off for any reason. I fold the bandana and throw it in my back pocket so it’s always there.

Early and late:
If you pay attention to the comings and goings of the locals in Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, or other hot regions, you’ll notice that they come out early, waking up at dawn (or before) to start working, cleaning the house, heading to the beach to exercise, or whatever. They’ll be active until about noon and then retire to eat lunch, nap, and lounge in the shade or indoors. That will continue during the hottest parts of the afternoon, for two, three, or even four hours while only the tourists are milling about. Then, as it starts to cool and the sun starts to go down, the locals come out again. This goes on well into the night, thereby splitting the day into two scheduled to accommodate the heat and sun.

Fan yourself.
It may seem obvious, but fanning yourself really does help get some air circulating around you. It’s not just the airflow that helps, but the fact that the breeze actually dries the surface area of your skin, effectively helping to cool your body temperature. You can use just about anything to fan yourself, but carrying around a fold-up fan will really come in handy, even if you’ll look a little like Madam Wong.

Or, go electric
Of course, we want aircon, and if not aircon, then to be near a fan. Whenever I go to a restaurant, hotel, bus station, etc. when it’s way too hot, I try to spot the fan and sit somewhere in its range. But I also bought a great little portable fan on eBay for like $3 that’s powered by plugging it into your iPhone port. It works extremely well for such a small size, and is a lifesaver when it’s scorching out!

Get in the AC
You want to run around sightseeing, hitting beaches, and doing fun stuff outdoors all day while you’re on vacation or traveling. But take the time to sit indoors in some nice cool air conditioning a few times each day, giving your body a break from the heat and the opportunity to cool off. Your hotel probably has AC, but coffee shops usually keep the aircon blowing or even walking through the local mall can cool you off.

When you swim/sightsee etc.

Being in extreme heat – especially when you’re not used to it – can be extremely taxing on your body. One of the best ways to give your body the chance to rest and recharge is to get some extra sleep. Don’t be afraid to take a nap or two (or three!) during the day, which will help you beat the heat when you wake up.

Eat light
You don’t want to eat huge, heavy, and rich meals when you’re in the tropics or hot climates. Instead, snack throughout the day and keep a lot of fruit, salads, and healthy fare in your diet.

Cold shower
Throughout the day, take a few cold showers. Or, even better, draw a cold bath and soak in there for a while. It’s the absolute best way to drop your body temperature quickly in a short time.

Use the hotel mini-fridge
No, I’m not recommending that just stick your head into the fridge to cool off. But, you can take the washcloths they provide in the room, wet them, roll them up, and stick them in the fridge or the freezer. Then, take them out and put them on the back of your neck or head when you’re heading out into the heat or coming back in.

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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