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Heat hacks: How to stay cool without air conditioning

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Warning signs | Cooling centers | Pets

A heat wave is heading toward Los Angeles, with triple-digit temperatures expected to bear down on Southern California in the days to come. We've collected maps and links to cooling centers, along with tips to stay cool and protect yourself against heat-related illnesses.

Los Angeles County has issued an updated list of community cooling centers, and KPCC has curated some other stay-cool tips for air-conditionally challenged residents across the region. 

Below you'll find practical advice from health officials, local resources from safety professionals and questionable suggestions from formerly hot people. 

Do you have a dependable method for hacking your body temperature? Tell us via Twitter or leave a comment below. 


In the face of tyrannical temperatures, it is essential to stay hydrated. Failing to drink enough water can result in a number of dangerous defeats, including, but not limited to, heat cramps, heat stroke and death

However, not all beverages are on your side. To make sure you're imbibing only allies, follow these basic guidelines:

Tip: Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink water or electrolyte-replacements 

Tip: Drink cool water, not extremely cold water (which can cause cramps)

Tip: Avoid sweetened drinks, caffeine, alcohol

The CDC says that in extreme heat you must increase fluid intake regardless of your activity level. Eight to 10 glasses of water per day is advised. If engaging in "heavy exercise in a hot environment," they recommend drinking:

Two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids every hour.


  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Faintness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Increased thirst


  • Diminished judgment
  • Disorientation
  • Pale and clammy skin
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)


In times of excessive heat, authorities say to dress like you're on vacation. That includes:

  • Hat, preferably with a wide brim
  • Loose-fitting, light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses


In L.A., Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, call 3-1-1 or call for a list cooling centers. In the city of Los Angeles, you can also find the list online. That's extra good news since Mayor Eric Garcetti announced extended cooling center hours from Sunday, August 27 through Wednesday, August 30.

Tip: Call the center in advance to make sure seating is available.

Tip: If the center you want is at capacity, or non-operational, head to a local, air conditioned library and cool off with a book about ice fishing in Antarctica.

Below is a map of cooling centers and splash pads/pools provided by L.A. County. You can also search the online directory to find the closest location.


A map of cooling centers provided by 2-1-1 Orange County:

For residents of Riverside County, the public health department has created this list to help you locate a cooling center near you.

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  • Never leave a pet or animal in a garage
  • Never leave a pet or animal in a vehicle 
  • Never leave a pet or animal in the sun
  • Provide shade 
  • Provide clean drinking water


Check in frequently with family, friends and neighbors. Offer assistance or rides to those who are sick or have limited access to transportation. And give extra attention to people most at risk, including: 

  • Elderly people (65 years and older)
  • Infants
  • Young children
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • People with mental illness
  • People taking certain medications (i.e.: "If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot," says the CDC)


  • Kiddie pool
  • Lotions in the fridge
  • Eat spicy foods in the basement (or on the floor) while wearing a damp shirt and listening to the rain setting on your white noise machine
  • Make sure ceiling fans are running counterclockwise
  • Wet paper towels. Fold into ankle and wrist cuffs. Freeze. Wear. Repeat.
  • Build a DIY AC
  • Build a mini cold air fan
  • Build an "evaporative cooler for immediate heat relief"
  • Make a barricade of fans and ice cubes
  • Go to an air-conditioned public place (movie theater, for example)
  • Close all the curtains, preferably the heat absorbing kind
  • Or open all the windows, depending on the breeze situation
  • Cool bath or shower twice a day
  • Wash your sheets before bed but don't dry them — put them on the bed damp (provided you're dealing with a dry heat)
  • Portable A/C unit

This story has been updated and originally ran in 2013.

With contributions from Kristen Lepore, Evie Liu, Mike Roe, and Riley Beggin

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