Been outside yet?
It's like a toaster oven out there in Rochester and surrounding southeast Minnesota communities.
It's hot, it's humid, the sun is unrelenting and to top it all off there's a hot wind gusting.
In other words, it's way uncomfortable.
If you live without air conditioning, this is the time when overheating can be a problem for you, your children and your pets.
I'll repeat what public health authorities often tell us at this time of year: Check on your elderly neighbors to make sure they're not overheated.
Winona County Public Health says "being in an air-conditioned environment, even if only for a few hours each day, will reduce the risk of heat-related illness."
So I've come up with some ideas for you to try out. Call it an experiment in "just chillin'."
• Host a water balloon fight. Invite the neighbors, especially your elderly neighbors. Tell everyone to show up in shorts or a swim suit — or else. Offer "gentle" games such as tossing the water balloon back and forth and make sure the balloons are good and breakable so that everyone gets wet at least once. The younger crowd can have a knock-down, drag-out water balloon fight afterward for the older crowd to watch from a shaded lawn chair. A few bags of water balloons, if you shop at lower-cost spots, will cost but a few dollars.
• Put your water sprinkler in a dry spot in the lawn and turn it on. Once again, invite everyone (young and old) to jump through the water. This will do double duty because you'll water the lawn and cool down your crew at the same time.
• Have an iced tea-making contest amongst your neighbors. Everyone makes sun tea this afternoon and then you all meet in the middle after icing the tea, each with pitcher, and everyone brings his or her own tumbler. Experiment. Put a sprig of an herb from your garden in the tea. Make it with a dash of cranberry juice or drop some frozen fruit in (whatever type you've got in the freezer).
• Make slushes as a family. Get out the blender or food processor and toss in some frozen fruits, yogurt, fresh fruit and maybe even a little ice. Make this the main course of your dinner.
• Head out to one of the many beaches (the ones that are open despite the pending Minnesota government shutdown, such as Foster Arend park). Foster Arend in particular has chilly water because it's spring-fed. But be cautious and follow beach safety rules to stay both cool and safe.
• Head out to Apache Mall. Find a bench and people watch for a while. Again, Winona County Public Health's advice about finding an air-conditioned environment, even for a couple of hours, can make a world of difference.
• Get out the fishing poles and head to the Zumbro River. Find a safe spot and wade on in to fish from the river (don't forget the sun screen).
• Visit the air-conditioned climes of Rochester Methodist Hospital, Olmsted Medical Center Hospital or Saint Marys Hospital. Check out the gift shop. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Ask about volunteer opportunities.
• I realize it might not be possible financially for everyone. But, if you're able, head to a local restaurant for a milkshake (yes it's OK to treat yourself once in a while), iced tea or fruit juice. Enjoy the air conditioning and conversation.
• Head to the YMCA, Rec Center, or a local fitness center, the Silver Lake Pool or the closest swimming pool and swim your heart out. See if you can find one of the ice-cream dip cones that have nuts embedded in the chocolate at the concession stand. Burn energy, get hungry, enjoy the water — and don't forget sunscreen.
• Go to a beach for the sole purpose of building a sand castle and digging deep into the wet and cool part of the sand to make a moat. Just keep in mind that many Minnesota state parks will be closed and inaccessible this week if the state government truly shuts down at 12:00 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning (July 1, 2011).
• Make home-made ice-cream and experiment with different kinds of fruit. If you've got an ice-cream maker, this is the time to have a treat. Try the recipe for adding, say, peaches or strawberries. Yum.
• Have a water gun fight with iced water. Take a big tub, fill it with water and then dump a bag or two of ice in before you let the kids fill their water guns. Invite Grandma to participate from her shaded lawn chair. She gets the biggest gun, filled with the coldest water and gets to intervene with a big blast of cold water whenever she thinks somebody needs help. Whoever gets hit with Grandma's water gets to refill her gun. This game can last as long as the sun does.
• Take a long, cool walk this evening after the sun sets, enjoying whatever breezes blow. Do a dance with your hands in the air, like the actor in the movie "Elizabethtown."
• Drink plenty of water.
• Keep a dish of refrigerator water and a damp cloth to wipe your forehead.
• If you get hot, run your wrists under the faucet with cool water for a while. That seems to help me cool off quickly.
• Take a cold-water shower. That's invigorating and you'll get cooled down.
Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel