Hot Topic: North State Heat


It was so hot the other day, I saw a dog chasing a cat … and they were both walkin’.

Let’s face it, we caught a break in June with fairly mild temperatures. We can’t expect July to hold the same fortune.

It’s a north state summer after all. If we didn’t have the triple digit heat waves, they’d be moving here by the thousands.

But after nearly two decades of living here, I feel like I’m finally getting a handle on all of this heat.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

Drink like a fish

You can get away with drinking less water in the winter, but dehydration’s a major issue when it’s hot. When I go mountain biking on a fairly hot day (something I do less and less), I’m always amazed at how I can drink an entire 80-ounce Camelbak and never have to pee. If you work outside or even spend a good amount of recreational time outside, you simply must consume water. I like cold stuff when it’s hot, so I’m always freezing water bottles and dumping ice into the Camelbak bladder (actually I use a Deuter pack, which I love, and they sell them at Sports LTD in Redding).

It’s not groundbreaking information that you should drink more water when it’s hot, but you’d be amazed how we get distracted from the simplest of solutions. By the way, coffee, alcohol and soda are no replacements for H20, and in fact, can work against you.

Also, you should be proactive about hydration. Athletes (marathoners and such) will pre-hydrate the day before events. If you’re being active outside, you should always drink in advance of being thirsty. If you start drinking when you get thirsty, you’ve basically started too late.

Don’t compete with the heat

I used to go mountain biking in the afternoons in the summer. My heart would start racing before I even reached a hill. I’d look over and see a deer lying in the shade under a tree. The animals don’t pick the hottest time of day to go moving around, why was I?

The best time for a walk, run or bike ride (or other outdoor activity) is early in the morning. The No. 2 choice is the evening. I still exercise in the middle of the hot day, but now I do it in the form of swimming at Whiskeytown Lake. I’m not a fast swimmer, but who cares? I’m outside moving around and my body temperature is cool.

Sunblock and hats and more sunblock

I shudder to think about the days when we would run around in the sun without sunscreen thinking it was actually healthy to get a dark tan.

“Ninety percent of the cancers we see are on areas that are often exposed to the sun — cheeks, noses, foreheads, the tops of shoulders, ” said Brian Reber, a certified physician assistant at Redding Dermatology Medical Group. “I always tell patients, respect the sun for what it is. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or a ball cap. Sunscreen does help. Even if you’re Latino or Mediterranean or African American (and not as susceptible to skin cancer), the sun is still going to age your skin.”

Most experts recommend SPF 30 or higher and it should be applied before you head out into the rays. It’s also important to remember to reapply sunscreen, says Reber. The most effective sunblocks say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection,” and it’s hard for them to be truly waterproof. The sun-protecting molecules of the sunscreen products absorb the UVA and UVB rays and then become spent. And they do wash off.

And while there are plenty of benign things that appear on your skin, sores that bleed and don’t heal after three or four weeks, and spots or moles that continually change appearance are things to watch out for. If you have a suspicion or bad feeling about something on your skin, it’s probably worth checking out.

That’s exactly what happened to me, by the way. A spot on my cheek turned out to be a superficial basal cell carcinoma (cancer) that Reber and Dr. Craig Kraffert treated.

“We see basal cells half a dozen times a day and thank God they’re not life-threatening generally,” Reber said, adding that many of the cases are older folks who grew up in a time before awareness about the sun’s dangers were well known.

“We know better now,” he said.


Awareness of the heat

I notice this phenomenon every summer in Redding. The temperature has risen above 100 degrees and while driving around, especially in congested parking lots, people are getting aggro. You also notice it at lines in the bank or grocery store or elsewhere.

People get hot and they get frustrated. It’s important to understand that, just like getting hungry or tired, getting hot can impact how you feel emotionally. The recognition of it alone is almost enough to combat it.

Other tips

If you don’t have air conditioning (or have poor AC), you can get creative with fans. It’s also good to remember that it’s easier to cool a single room than the entire house (so, maybe cool the room you’re going to spend time in).

I used to drive a car that didn’t have AC, and I’d keep a spray bottle to spray my face and arms. The water and the wind through the windows did a pretty good job of keeping me cool (long stoplights were a bummer). Keeping a cool, wet rag around your neck can also provide relief.

If you’re sitting around in a hot house, maybe it’s time to check out someone else’s AC — a matinee movie, a department store or restaurant, a public building.

(“I noticed, Mr. Dyar, that you’ve been checking out this City Hall art for quite some time.” “Yes, yes. I’m quite fond of it. By the way, do they have blended drinks downstairs?”)

jim-dyar-125Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at




is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Adrienne jacoby says:

    Growing up in a place called THERMAL, one learns to avoid the sun early in life. I think that's one reason I'm 73 but look only 20 . . . . oh, no, . . . . wait . . . guess that was my magic mirror talking. ;-)) (note: double chins)

    Most excellent tips, Jim. Keep reminding us!!

  2. Avatar Brian Rueb says:

    or you could just go to Iceland….

  3. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    Thanks for all the good advice! I too have used the spray bottle technique and find it so helpful.

  4. Avatar Chris B. says:

    I lived in Chico in my poor college days with no AC or swamp cooler. I'd spritz my face with a spray bottle while a fan was blowing on me full force. Worked like a charm (until until it would get over 105 degrees or so!).

    Nowadays, I open all the doors and windows (with screens) in the evening and close everything up in the morning. Keeps the house pretty comfy.

  5. Avatar Roxanne B. says:

    Jim, thanks for the great reminders on beating the heat. I've lived in the heat all of my life and still can't tolerate the 100+ degree days very well. Public Health has a 1/2 page tip sheet on its web site that has similar advice and a handy list of air conditioned public places.

  6. Avatar Lisa says:

    The risk of sunstroke and skin cancer drops considerably at night, so I bought a headlamp. The idea of being active during the day is a holdover from northern European habits, which were formed during a mini-ice age. If this area had been occupied by Spain, maybe we'd be a little more sensible about estivation.