We’ve probably all been there: sweating it out in the heat, wishing we were in a cool lake or pool, and so we reach for that water bottle and pour the water on our head for some relief.
But does this actually cool you off or is this relief just temporary?
The answer: it depends on your conditions.
In a hot-dry environment (low humidity):
- Pouring water over your head can cool you off and lower your core body temperature, but the caveat to this is that you have to be in a place where the water you poured on your body can evaporate off of your skin and get rid of heat (remember, only sweat that evaporates off of your skin actually cools you off).
- A good breeze is also important to help wick the water off of your skin to cool you down.
And as you’ve probably guessed, you’d also need to be wearing minimal clothing— like shorts & a t-shirt— as heavy clothing, like PPE, would just trap the water you poured on your body.
strong>In a hot-wet environment (high humidity):
- If your sweat is already dripping off of you and it’s really humid outside then pouring water over your head might make you feel better, but won’t help you cool down.
- Research has shown that pouring water over your head can make you feel cooler by reducing your skin temperatures and also reduce your perceived exertion (how hard you feel like you’re working) in the heat. However, it won’t improve your performance.
So, what’s the verdict on pouring water over your head?
Unless you’re wearing light clothing and working in a hot-dry environment where the water can evaporate off of your skin, it won’t help to cool you off. That being said, if it makes you feel better to pour cold water over your head and helps you get through the work day, it won’t hurt you, so go for it- just remember to keep an eye on the signs & symptoms of heat illness.
Munoz, C. X., et al. “Effects of oral rehydration and external cooling on physiology, perception, and performance in hot, dry climates.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 22.6 (2012): e115-e124.
Morris, Nathan B., and Ollie Jay. “To drink or to pour: How should athletes use water to cool themselves?.” (2016): 191-194.