What the heck are the “dog days” of summer and where did that term originate? Well, avid readers, I am not only paid exorbitant amounts of money to write these blogs, I am also expected to do a bit of research too. The term comes from the heavens, or, more specifically, a star constellation called Canis Major. That constellation has a star within it called Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky. This star and constellation, which is shaped like a dog and follows Orion the Hunter across the sky, played a significant role in the ancient Egyptian calendar and its significance was them passed on to ancient Greece and Rome and then, to us in the form of that classic Al Pacino movie, Dog Day Afternoon.
When Sirius rose in the Egyptian sky in late July it usually signified a time of excessive heat, drought, bad luck and general malaise. Since Sirius was, and still is, part of the Canis Major constellation, this month to six-week period during which it was, and still is, visible in the night sky from late July to late August came to be referred as “dog days” as a result. And the term has been with us ever since. Now, take this vital information and go amaze your friends with your depth and breadth of knowledge.
As for staying cool during the dog days, here are a few tips that don’t involve just sitting around in air conditioning:
- Take a sheet of blanket, place it in a large plastic bag and then put it in the freezer for a few hours. Then, take it out and wrap yourself in chilled comfort or take them up to bed with you. For added cooling power, dampen the sheets slightly prior to placing them in the freezer. I like to think of this tip as being the opposite of Kramer’s idea (Seinfeld, season 7, episode 20 “The Calzone”) of placing clothes in the oven prior to wearing them…just don’t burn them in a pizza oven!
- Just as some warm their beds up at night during the winter months (why don’t we have a term for the coldest days of winter, like “penguin days?”) with a hot water bottle, you can cool it down with a frozen water bottle as well.
- If you’re using a fan, place it in an open window and flip it depending upon what part of the day it is. During the cool of the evening, have it pull that cool air into the house. During the heat of the day, turn it around and create an exhaust fan that pulls the hot air out of the house. There is also the tried and true method of placing a roasting pan of ice (ironic that…placing ice in a roasting pan) in front of the blowing fan. A large, shallow roasting pan works well as it increases the surface area of the ice that the breeze is blowing across.
- Another use for a kitchen pan or bowl and ice is to fill one with ice water and then sit in front of the TV or computer with your feet soaking in it…just don’t later use it to make some mac and cheese.
- Every so often, during the course of the day, run your wrists (or any other pulse point, but wrists are the easiest to access) under cold water for 15 seconds or so. That cold water will cool all that blood that passes through your wrists so close to the skin’s surface and then circulate it to other parts of the body.
- Pull the curtains or blinds on the windows of your home that are receiving direct sunlight. Think of how hot your car is when you first get in it after it has sat in the sun all day…well, the same phenomenon occurs in your house also.
- Keep your moisturizers and perfume or cologne in the fridge. I think this is self-explanatory, no?
- Acquire (buy, beg, borrow or steal) a chillow. It’s a memory foam cooling pad that can be inserted into the pillow case of your favorite pillow. Check it out here: https://new-chillow.myshopify.com/
As always, stay well hydrated, wear light, loose clothing, avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages and ensure that you check on your elderly friends. If you are one of the elderly, ensure you have someone to check in on you, especially during the doggiest of dog days.