By Jan White
“Dog Days are approaching; you must, therefore, make both hay and haste while the sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him.” – The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1817
“Dog Days of Summer.” You’ve heard the phrase all your life, but you might not know exactly where the term comes from. Did it come from visions of the old family hound lounging around listlessly on the shaded porch or under the shadow of a tree because it’s too hot to do anything else? While that sounds logical, the origin of the term is actually found in the stars.
Ancient Greeks noted that the most intense heat of the summer occurred during a time when the brightest star in the sky rose and set with the sun. They named the star Sirius, after the dog belonging to the mythological hunter Orion. Even the Romans used canine terms when they included the star in the constellation Canis Major – latin for ‘Greater Dog.’
Other than the sun, Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. In ancient times it was believed that the rising of the super-bright star at dawn, combined with the sun, created the sweltering summer temperatures. Even the name Sirius stems from the Greek word seirios, meaning “scorching.” The Romans called the convergence of Sirius and the sun as the “days of the dog star.” The period lasted from around early July to mid-August.
The Roman poet Virgil wrote, “fiery Sirius, bringer of drought and plague to frail mortals, rises and saddens the sky with sinister light.” The Dog Days were believed to be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest - a time when animals and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat.
Whether there’s truth or not to that legend, here are some tips to help you get through the Dog Days of Summer.
- Drink water. Then drink more water. It’s essential to stay hydrated in the summer, and water is easily accessible and free. And if you’re like some, who don’t relish drinking plain water, there are many flavorful additives like Mio, Propel, and Crystal Light to make plain water more palatable.
- Use an air conditioner. It sounds like a “given” because running an air conditioner is one of the most efficient ways to beat the heat. But these days, running an AC for a long duration can be very expensive. Utilize ceiling fans and standup fans to increase circulation if necessary. Stagnant air feels oppressive, but moving air helps to break it up.
- Avoid using the oven for heating your food. Summer is always the best time to use your outdoor grill. Also, microwaves, crock-pots, and rice cookers emit less heat than your stovetop burners and ovens. Also, be aware that dishwashers can also create steamy conditions inside the room, so use sparingly.
- Optimize window coverings. Implement the use of insulated or blackout curtains or blinds. You can also use the old-fashioned method of taping sheets of aluminum foil or black contractor trash bags over windows to deflect the heat and light.
- Stay cool during sleep. The heat of summer is worse when you are trying to sleep with a high body temperature. Consider lowering your thermostat a couple of degrees at night or keep your head cool with a cooling gel pillow pad.
- Utilize the cooling points of your body. An easy way to cool down quickly is to apply ice cubes wrapped in a cloth to your neck and wrists.
- Cool down your car. Slightly roll down a couple of windows in your vehicle. This will allow for a possible cross draft to flow through the area.
- Exercise comfortably. You don’t have to stop exercising because of the heat, but you could shift from rigorous exercises to perhaps shorter sessions or switch to water sports.