As an Englishwoman, I've never had to deal with more than one or two humid days a year. After experiencing my first summer in Pittsburgh, where the humidity got as high as 90% or more, I've developed some useful ways to make it through hot, humid days. That may be nothing compared to living in some states, but if you're not accustomed to it, it can have a big impact.
Since my apartment does not have air conditioning, I have had to develop a lot of techniques to avoid succumbing to humidity both indoors and outdoors. The most important things to do are to dress appropriately, drink plenty of water and avoid the heat as much as possible.
What Is Humidity?
Humidity is not necessarily related to heat - it is to do with how much water vapour is in the air. In cities such as Pittsburgh, the humidity can get unbearable. Anyone living in Florida will know what I'm talking about, too - it feels damp, uncomfortably sticky and even difficult to breathe.
During the summers, temperatures often rise to 90 degrees or more, and coupled with humidity, it feels like you're being baked in a bain marie or smothered with a hot, damp towel. Definitely not a pleasant feeling.
Humidity is also extremely dangerous to your health if you are outdoors in hot, humid weather for long stretches of time.
Health Side Effects of Humidity
Humidity is particularly dangerous when coupled with extreme heat. Side effects include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Elevated Breathing
- Exacerbating Asthma
- Excessive Sweating
Being out in the direct sunlight for long periods of time, especially when the humidity makes it feel ten times hotter, is likely to cause lethargy and exhaustion even if you don't suffer from any more serious side effects.
Ten Most Humid Cities in the USA
How to Cope Indoors
In some states, it is simply unthinkable not to have air conditioning. In Pittsburgh, however, it is not at all necessary - apart from maybe three months out of the year.
I live in a third floor apartment, so when it got hot, it got HOT - and when the air was humid, it was even worse, and cracking a window was a BIG MISTAKE. For people experiencing extreme heat and humidity indoors, here are some methods of coping:
- Don't open the windows - if it is hot outside, it won't cool the place down, and the humid air will only make it worse, not to mention increasing the likelihood of mould and mildew. Some might disagree with this, but I found that letting the humid air in made it worse. Instead use indoor fans to push the air around - it will be much worse if the air is stagnant.
- Get a portable air conditioning unit or a dehumidifier. It is worth having because you can cool down at least one room in the house and make it livable. It is also much cheaper than installing air conditioning and having it on all the time. I use a portable air conditioning unit at night in my bedroom when the heat and humidity are getting to me.
- Keep cool with food. Don't turn on the oven or stove. Drink plenty of water, eat non-cook meals like salads and keep some popsicles handy. It will make the extreme heat more bearable.
- Take cool showers. It may only be a temporary reprieve, but it will feel so good!
- Don't be too active - doing chores was agony in a sauna-like house, whereas sitting still became more bearable with several fans directed at me. Movement makes it worse.
- Get out of the house! Too hot indoors? Go elsewhere and enjoy the sweet, sweet feel of someone else's air conditioning.
Places to Go to Avoid Humidity
If it's unbearably hot and humid in your living space and going outside is like going swimming in a pool of sweat, the best thing to do is find cool alternatives to get you through the summer. Here are a few suggestions of places to go to avoid the humidity.
- Shopping centers: spend an afternoon browsing for cool, light summer clothes in a deliciously air conditioned mall.
- Cinemas: forget sweating your way through a DVD at home and head to the cinema, where you can enjoy a movie without wanting to bathe in ice cubes.
- Libraries: Lucky for me, I have a library just across the street. It was my favourite refuge when it got too humid for me.
- Swimming Pools: An obvious choice - if you can't beat the humidity, getting into a cool pool will certainly make you feel better.
- Museums: A great refuge in the rain and the sweltering heat. Enjoy a cool afternoon looking at art and history without worrying about whether it is possible for humans to melt.
Chill With the Dinosaurs in a Museum
Drink Plenty of Water
It's inevitable, right? You have to venture out of doors sooner or later. When you do, you'll need to take a few precautions to make sure you don't make yourself ill. Here's my best advice:
- Don't do strenuous exercise outside. If you want to do sports, find an indoor location. My only recommended outdoor sport for a humid day is biking - the movement will make you feel cooler. Drink plenty of water, though, and go out in the early morning or late evening for the coolest temperatures.
- Wear loose, light clothing. Go for light colours and natural fabrics like cotton and linen. Don't wear tight clothing - allow air to circulate and you'll feel cooler.
- Drink lots of water. You'll get dehydrated extremely fast so take a few bottles of water with you. Freezing half a bottle of water on its side and filling the other half with water will give you a cool drink even after hours in the sun.
- Stay inside at noon. It's best not to stray outdoors when the day is at its hottest. Try to keep outings to early morning and late evening.
More Tips for Keeping Cool and Having Fun
- Be a child and have fun outdoors. Invite your friends over and have a sprinkler party in your swimsuits. Fill up some water balloons, act like idiots and beat the hot weather at its own games.
- Have an excuse to eat ice cream. I invented several exciting new popsicle flavours with my very own popsicle moulds, not to mention my ice cream maker. Cheesecake ice cream, anyone?
- Defy tradition. Tired of summer activities? Go ice skating in an indoor rink. It's guaranteed to keep you cool.
- Go on vacation. Go somewhere cooler for a few days or the weekend. Whenever the weather forecast told us that it was going to be over 90 degrees, we took a weekend trip up to Erie - cooler climate, air conditioned place to stay, and a beach. Need I say more?
desertzinnia on August 30, 2020:
I grew up in AZ, so heat isn't a problem but humidity is. Somehow I managed in Houston but when I moved away from the coast to the plains I just about died. I swear by using a dehumidifier. I have two small ones, one in my bedroom and one in the kitchen. An added bonus is fresh water for my plants twice a day.
Here the heat peaks at 4 or 5PM, maybe because of the latitude, but it's also the lowest humidity (30-40%), so that's when I mow the lawn. Mornings are cooler, but the humidity approaches 100%.
Popsicles and cool showers are helpful, but I've found the thing that cools me off best is an ice cream float. I prefer chocolate ice cream in cola. Chocolate chip is also good.
Mir Abdul Latif on August 06, 2020:
Very nicely elaborated. Thanks
Carol on June 21, 2020:
My husband and I are in our late 70’s and early 80’s. We have traveled all of our retired life in our RV mostly from Florida (in the winter months) to New England in the summer months. We were dodging the humidity. Now we are no longer going north because it is a long way. Know we will have to deal with the heat and humidity in nc where we live. Your article is very helpful. Thanks so much.
Anvil Anton on August 22, 2018:
Jonathan Fischer on July 30, 2018:
Many thanks for the tips. I am in Berlin and it is unusually hot and humid this summer.
Cmcmcmc on June 07, 2018:
Thank you for the good information and tips.
Sahr on March 25, 2018:
I am suffering high humidity in my room from 81% to 90% during the night, its really killing me, it feels like drowning, breathing difficulty, the air seems static heat , stuffy nose. Heat is unbearable.
Steve Siv on June 28, 2017:
Seriously, I wouldn't complain being anywhere in the States, after being in a climate with temperatures above 85º and humidity at the lowest of 90% RH, 365 days a year!
Eugene is so humid on June 25, 2017:
I'm miserable. I sweat all the time. I grew up in Redding California and it was a hot dry heat. All I do is sweat, every season of the year , but more in the summer. I shall surely die.
Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on May 09, 2017:
I get really dehydrated in humidity, so I make sure I'm eating plenty of salt in addition to all the water I drink. Foods high in potassium and magnesium (like leafy greens) help a lot, too.
Ot on July 19, 2016:
I am going to Houston and I am dreading it sincentives I know how bad it can be in July.
Emma on June 10, 2016:
Those high humidity levels may be high but humans ability to cope with humidity is based on dew point levels. So Eugene Or may have 70% humidity but a dew point of 45 so it's totally dry feeling when you go. DC on the other hand can have the same humidity level but a dew point of 80 and that's when you feel the humidity. A dew point level above 66 is considered uncomfortable.
akash on October 14, 2015:
i cant stand humidity.
beth on March 03, 2015:
I live on the gulf coast near corpus christie and its DISGUSTING from march to november sometimes even december. No reprieve for us. I want to move back to canada asap!
Tina on December 26, 2014:
It's your Blog, be creative and see where it takes you! On mine I'm not sure what the heck I'm doing yet I keep pniostg and letting kinda evolve into whatever it wants . I've posted on music, politics, dogs, re-in-acting, and taxicab etiquette for example. One of the great things about writing is you can anywhere, anytime, and do anything ..
Tracy Lynn Conway from Virginia, USA on September 17, 2013:
I would never have guessed that some of those North West locations were on the top ten. Thanks for warning me where not to move. I have noticed that my body adjusts to the humidity to some degree but never to the point where I have a great amount of energy. Interesting article!