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The Challenge of Staying Cool, Calm and Alert in the Waning Days of Summer

For me, the challenge of staying cool is about staying cool enough. Enough to keep my head clear, to keep my limbs from weakening and foot drop from worsening so that I don’t trip over my toes. To keep from flushing from head to toe, feel the blood pounding in my skull and the heat radiating off my skin. When I get overheated, all the broken capillaries in my face get bigger and redder. They first appeared after taking my initial course of prednisone twenty years ago and have just gotten worse over the years. I developed rosacea, too, so my face only wears a neutral tone in the chilliest, windiest weather.

Facial flushing and swollen feet

With the warm weather comes facial flushing and swollen red feet, even if my body feels normal. On top of that, I take Tecfidera, which causes me to flush bright red and tingle from my scalp all the way down my legs a couple of hours after dosing. It doesn’t last long, but if I’m in public when it happens, people think I’m either sunburned or having a stroke. It takes constant monitoring and adjusting my environment to keep up with the temperature changes in the room and inside me. I set my air conditioner at 66 degrees, too chilly for the people who come visit me, but just right for my breathing, comfort, and alertness. But this year, even that hasn’t been enough. My ancient air conditioner started to fail.

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Surviving with an old air conditioner

My brother and boyfriend installed my new air conditioner exactly two weeks ago today. I can’t believe I went through more than half the summer with the old one. It was made in 1987 and resembled an old station wagon with wood side panels. The fan had all but stopped working at the beginning of summer. Despite setting it on high, I felt no air circulation. I had to drag my pedestal fan into the living room and aim it at my recliner where I sat still most of the day, trying to cool my face and feet. At night I woke in a sweat even though I’d moved the pedestal fan into my bedroom and aimed it at my face. My electric bill for July shot up to $170 — for a 700 square foot apartment. That was the last straw.

The new AC may just pay for itself

Why did I wait so long? It was an expense I didn’t want to take on, but now I had no choice. I set my budget at $300 and searched the internet for a deal. It wasn’t hard to find one so close to the end of the season. I settled on a GE 8,600 BTU window unit for $295 with free shipping to my home. Instead of knobs for controls, it is digital with an auto setting and a remote control. After a few days, I started checking my energy usage and saw an immediate and dramatic drop. My next bill will be at least $60 lower than the last one. It’s possible that the unit will just about pay for itself by the end of the season.

A dramatic improvement

The improvement is more dramatic than I expected. I sleep through the night now. I don’t need the fan in the living room during the day. I don’t battle hot flashes like I did with the old unit during those 95 degree days in July. My feet no longer swell and my face stays cooler longer with better air circulation and a new rosacea cream that cools my face. I wish I’d done all these things earlier in the summer. But I’m grateful to have hit a plateau now. What’s important is that I’m comfortable, alert, and cool. The calm part still needs work, though.

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