Hot summer

8 ways to beat the heat while Austin's swimming pools remain closed

8 ways to beat the heat while Austin's swimming pools remain closed

Windy Point Park Lake Travis sunset
Central Texas abounds with lakes, rivers, and creeks. Just make sure you're not overcrowding. Photo courtesy of Windy Point Park

With hotter temperatures right around the corner, you may be starting to dream about cool blue swimming pools. Except Austin city pools may or may not be open this summer, and even if they are, not everyone is ready for some possible virus-swapping. So, how to keep your cool without the pool?

Air dry
After a shower, instead of toweling off and firing up the hair dryer, put on lightweight clothing or a swimsuit and sit in front of or underneath a fan. Of course, you can do this anytime you need to cool off. Fans work their magic by moving air over our skin and carrying away heat and this works even better on wet skin. In general, dress in loose-fitting, light-colored cotton clothing.

Bandanas and neck coolers
There are all kinds of neck coolers on the market. Some are made of special fabric that you just soak in water while others contain gel packets that you refrigerate before using. These work because the carotid arteries on your neck contain a lot of heat (all that blood going to your brain!). A simpler approach: wet a standard bandana, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes, and wrap it around your neck or wrists.

Eat and drink right
Eating more fruits and vegetables and smaller, more frequent meals keeps you cooler. And that cold beer? Sorry, not a good idea; alcohol consumption can increase the effects of heat. Do drink plenty of water (don’t wait until you’re thirsty). And limit coffee consumption since it can cause dehydration. But good news? Spicy foods can make you feel cooler by making you sweat, so hit those tacos. Iced tea and popsicles will make you feel cooler, too, but sadly, ice cream will not because its fat content is hard to digest.

Natural bodies of water
Central Texas abounds with lakes, rivers, and creeks that are as pleasant if not more so in the heat than swimming pools. Lake Austin access points include Emma Long Metropolitan Park Mary Quinlan Park, and Fritz Hughes Park near Mansfield Dam. A number of LCRA parks and recreation areas provide access to the Highland Lakes, including Lake Travis, as well as Lake Bastrop South and North shores. State parks near Austin with bodies of water include McKinney Falls, Inks Lake, and Pedernales Falls. State parks are currently open for day use only for groups no larger than five, and you must reserve a day pass ahead of time. Choose your destination carefully and consider off-peak times in order to avoid crowds. If parking lots and shorelines are full, try another location, and wherever you end up, maintain distance of at least six feet from people not in your family group.

Technically, the air isn’t any cooler in the shade than in the sun, but you (and your dog) will feel cooler in the shade because direct sunlight makes you feel 10 to 15 degrees hotter. Fortunately, Austin has a lot of nice, shady trees. Stay under them. No trees? Wear a large-brimmed hat or carry an umbrella (our grandmothers called them parasols!). Park your car in the shade, too, and roll down all the windows to cool the inside before you get back in it. Never leave a child or pet in a car in the sun — its interior can quickly become hot enough to cause heatstroke. And grass feels cooler than pavement.

Going back and forth on an old-fashioned swing uses the same cooling principal as a fan — moving air — but is more fun. You can hang your own swing from a large tree or beams on a porch or covered patio. Use a store-bought swing or make it yourself from a board and ropes.  

Wading pools
Don’t underestimate the refreshing power of a backyard kiddie pool filled with nice, cool water from the hose. These range from less than 10 up to hundreds of dollars; choose one with high soft sides and you can stretch out and rest your head. Bonus: when you’re through chilling out, dump the water strategically and voila, you’ve watered the lawn, too. Locally, Academy and H-E-B stores carry kiddie pools. And if you don’t have room for a kiddie pool, putting just your feet into a container of cool water helps or running through the sprinkler can do the trick.

Water balloon fights
Another fun way to get wet: fill large balloons with cool water and let your family members throw them at each other. This also has the bonus of helping to water the yard. Set ground rules, such as no throwing at the face (any maybe have youngsters wear swim goggles). Be sure to pick up all the pieces of shattered balloon so they don’t become litter (make it a contest for the kids with a prize for the one who picks up the most pieces).