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How to Stay Cool While Working in a Heat Wave

Take the scorch out of summer with these inventive cooling products.

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Hot Under the Collar

Do you work outside in the heat? If your answer is yes, you are hardly alone. According to the advocacy group Public Citizen, nearly 1.1 million U.S. agriculture and construction workers labored in extreme heat in July 2017 alone. And many had to go to the emergency room as a result. One hospitalization study in Los Angeles, from 2005 to 2010, found that heat-related emergency-room visits grew by about 8 percent with each percentage increase in residents working in construction, and by 11 percent following every comparable rise in farming, forestry, and related outdoor sectors. Working construction is a dangerous job anytime — and even more so in the summer.

There is good news, though. The marketplace is chock-full of smart cooling products meant to shield workers (and gardeners, and athletes) from heat stress. Here are some of our favorites.

How to help your crew fight heat stress.

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COREGEAR Ultra Cool XL Water Mister

Give your workers some break-time relief with this manual-pump mister. Pour water in the top funnel or hook the tank up to a hose. Pump by hand until you get resistance. Happy users report that one gallon of water equals roughly 30 minutes of extra-fine cooling mist. The manufacturer claims a 30-degree reduction in the outdoor air temperature when the mister is at work.

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Cool-U Phase-Change Vest by TechNiche International

This USA-made vest is designed to be worn underneath clothes, unlike evaporative vests that must be worn on the outside in order to work. Freeze the included cooling inserts for 25 minutes, and you’ll get two-to-three hours of 58-degree F relief. It’s especially good for HazMat workers, or anyone else who wears heat-trapping protective gear. Buy spare cooling inserts, and you can rotate a cool one in after the insert you’re wearing is depleted. Protect yourself from the scorching heat with this Dickies Temp-iQ Long Sleeve Cooling Performance Sun Shirt.

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Columbia Freezer Zero Arm Sleeves

These tightly-woven arm sleeves react with sweat to lower the temperature of the UPF-50 fabric. They also protect your arms from UVA and UVB rays, the parts of the light spectrum that suppress the immune system, cause sunburns and plant the seeds of skin cancer. Find out why you get tired in the sun.

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Miracool Bandana by Occunomix

Here’s a bandana that simply radiates cool: The all-cotton Miracool Bandana, with polymer cooling crystals that activate when soaked in water. This is a top Amazon seller for military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Ergodyne Chill-Its Vest

Soak the Chill-Its Vest in water and let the recharging gel packs do their thing. It’s meant to be worn outside your clothes, and users attest: You will definitely get wet, but you’ll also feel cool. Chill-Its performs best in high heat, but low humidity. For a humid climate, opt for a phase-change vest, meant to be worn close to your skin.

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Mission Enduracool Techknit Cooling Towel

The ultra-stretchy breathable poly-nylon fabric holds its cool for about two hours. In dry climates, soak the Enduracool towel in water and use it as an evaporative cooler. In humid climates, users recommend wearing it as a headband to soak up sweat. Here are a few ways to keep your home cool in the summer.

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Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler

Yes, this is a $300 cooler, but it bests other coolers by far in terms of cold-keeping ability. It’s ultra-thick and will carry 28 cans and a generous volume of ice.

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Squincher Electrolyte Freezer Pops

For stocking that new Yeti cooler, might we recommend a few Squincher Electrolyte Freezer Pops? They have more potassium and less sodium than many electrolyte drinks. Flavors include lemon-lime, cherry, mixed berry, orange and grape.

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Darn Tough Coolmax Socks

In extreme heat, it feels good to have cool feet. These Vermont-made socks feature a blend of nylon, polyester, Lycra spandex and acrylic to wick away moisture and repel bacteria and odor. And, they have a lifetime guarantee; just send them back to the company for a replacement if they wear out (before you do).

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ColdSpot Cold Pack

This 11- x -14-inch urethane cold pack is something you might find in a physical therapist’s gear bag. It’s soft and pliable, even below freezing—thanks to a bentonite clay interior—and maintains its chilly therapeutic temp for 30 minutes.

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10- x 10-Foot Pop-Up Canopy by ABC Canopy

The three pillars of OSHA’s heat stress campaign are Water, Rest and Shade. This wind and waterproof canopy, made of silver-coated polyester, throws some serious shade for over-heated construction workers. The canopy provides 100 square feet of true shade under a solid steel frame. The front awning adds another 23 feet of shade, and the whole thing packs down into a wheeled bag for easy transport.

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Kwikool 1.1-Ton Spot Cooler

This spot cooler is completely self-contained and portable (no exhaust ducting necessary). Made of high-grade steel and other American-made parts, the 115-volt breeze machine has 14,000 BTUs of cooling power and a 5-gallon internal condensate tank.

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Playing It Cool

The employer is almost always required to pay for the crew’s Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), but the lines get fuzzy when it comes to heat stress prevention, as the Occupational Safety & Health Act does not specifically address work in high heat and/or humidity. Still, work safety experts emphasize that the cost of cooling bandanas, ventilated gloves and sweat liners is minimal when compared with the cost of workers needing to leave due to heat stress. Plus, it’s a great way for employers to show that they care about worker well–being.

About the author:

Alyssa Ford is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist. Her work has been published in the Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Home,, Crain’s, Experience Life and many other publications.

Alyssa Ford
Alyssa Ford is a long-time freelance journalist in Minneapolis. Her published credits include the Star Tribune, Utne Reader, Crain's,, Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Home, Experience Life, Artful Living, Momentum, Minnesota, and many others. She is a past president of the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists.