The last Friday in May is National Heat Awareness Day. For those of you who don’t know, it gets hot — very hot — in the South. Particularly in coastal Alabama, where the heat and humidity work together to create a double whammy. If you aren’t used to dealing with this weather, it can be a potentially critical issue. Heat exhaustion and dehydration can cause fatalities.

A few ways to prepare for this mix of sun, heat, wind, and water include loose, comfortable clothing, plenty of water (before you enter the elements if possible — don’t start your day thirsty), a hat for shade, and perhaps a spritzer of water. Pack your own shade if you’ll be at the beach. A large beach umbrella and a portable wagon give you an option for lugging things back and forth without breaking a sweat, and you can fill it with everything else you need for the day.

Fabric is important to consider. Cotton is breathable, but it also stays wet longer. Some people swear by it, while others prefer linen. Still, if you’ll be getting wet and then drying off, a synthetic fabric may be your best bet. Dressing in layers is recommended. Long sleeves can help you guard against the sun. You may get warm during the heat of the day and chilly in the evening.

Another fun accessory is a Buff. They are essentially tubes of fabric that can cover your neck and part of your face. They are unique, because not only do they help guard against cold and windburn, but they can also be soaked in ice water and used to quickly bring your core body temperature down when overheated. It’s true that it gets hot on the Alabama Gulf Coast, but with a little preparation, we think you’ll enjoy it.

If possible, choose a Reef-Safe brand of sunscreen that does not have a high concentration of titanium dioxide. More Reef-Safe sunscreen means fewer chemical reactions in our waters that bleach our coral reefs and disrupt habitats. The oxybenzone and octinoxate chemicals are now banned in Hawaii and also are believed to cause coral bleaching. When in doubt, choose Reef Safe!

Beyond keeping the sun off the delicate skin on your face, chest, and neck, one of the most important accessories for beating the heat is a bottle of water. Carrying around a reusable bottle of water means you’ll have a physical reminder to drink more water; you can save money on refills, and you’ll cut down on the amount of waste that’s being contributed to the environment. As the market for recyclables shrinks, let’s be responsible and rethink single-use solutions.

Have any other ideas for how to beat the heat? Let us know in the comments and remember, stay cool!