Summer myths bunked and debunked

By: Sean K. Thompson
| Published 06/24/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX – Now that we’re definitely in the throes of summer, old wives tales and outright misinformation are running rampant as to dealing with the heat and season. Here are some Q & As to set the record straight:

What's true and what's not?

Hot weather makes you sleepy – Bunked
Yes, we do tend to find ourselves dragging in the afternoon more often during the summer. The increased temperatures outside force our bodies to work harder to regulate our internal thermometer, burning up energy and making us long for an afternoon siesta.

They call it ‘dog days of summer’ because of dogs laying around in the too-hot hours – Debunked
Actually, the phrase ‘dog days of summer’ (and its accompanying ‘dog day afternoon’) has nothing to do with our furry pets and instead relies on ancient Roman astronomy. Near the end of July in the height of the Roman Empire (and also today), Sirius – aka ‘the Dog Star’ – would appear in the sky just before the sun, marking the beginning of the very hottest days of the year. Romans referred to this period as dies caniculares or days of the dog star, which eventually became modernized to just ‘dog days.’

Drinking something hot in the summer will make you feel cooler – Bunked
We were surprised to find that this was actually technically true. Our human brains have a region called the hypothalamus, which regulates our internal thermometers and our sweat glands. When we drink something hot, our internal temperature goes up, which signals the hypothalamus to make us sweat. When we sweat in hot outside temperatures, the heat evaporates it, layering our skin with wetness that cools us down. So there you have it: a nice hot cup of coffee can cool you down… IF you otherwise drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

You can fry eggs on a sidewalk and bake cookies on your dashboard – Sort of Bunked
This is where it gets iffy. Yes, it’s possible to both cook an egg on a sidewalk and bake a sheet of cookies on your dashboard… on limited occasions. A concrete sidewalk can reach up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but an egg needs to have an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees to be considered fully cooked. If you use a more heat-absorbing material – such as blacktop or a metal manhole cover – you can cook the egg, but we wholeheartedly encourage you to skip actually eating it. Ditto the cookies. A sealed-up car in middle of a bright, sunshiny day can reach internal temperatures approaching 200 degrees, but it would have to stay that way for up to three hours or more to fully cook the cookies. And, again, we suggest you don’t actually eat your science experiment; there’s bad bacteria in both undercooked eggs and cookie dough.

Wind blowing through open doors and windows will make things feel cooler – Debunked
Experts agree that it’s easier for a home to maintain a lower internal temperature if it is sealed up as much as possible from the outside. Sure, a breeze from an open bedroom window may make you feel cooler for a bit, but breezes don’t last, and any open portal to the outside will cause the cooler air to dissipate and allow the hot air in. With windows and doors closed, your fans and AC systems don’t have to work as hard. The same goes for a car as long as the AC system is working properly. If all is good in your factory-installed automobile air conditioning system, the best way to keep cool while driving is to set it on ‘circulate’ – where it will just keep re-cooling already cold air – with the windows up. However, if you don’t have a working car AC you need to roll down your windows and keep moving as much as possible with the vents on your face.

No matter what, during these hot days, it’s vitally important to stay hydrated with water, use liberal amounts of sunscreen, protect your heat and skin with hats and the proper attire, and take frequent breaks, preferably indoors. More than 1,300 people die each year due to excessive heat, and we’d like to bring that number down to zero.

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