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Fact Check: Does light-colored clothing keep you cool?

Posted at 8:02 PM, Aug 18, 2017
and last updated 2018-07-30 13:16:29-04

The South Texas heat has been relentless this summer and that means high heat indexes along with high danger for those working outside.

With heat indexes refusing to dip below 100 degrees, staying cool can mean the difference between a hard day’s work and a trip to the hospital. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are not how anyone wants to spend their summer but a common trick claims to help solve that: wearing light colored clothes.

So it’s time for a fact check…

Fact or Fiction: Light colored clothing can help you keep your body cool.

The Verdict: Fact. Light colored clothes can help you stay cool.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heat related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke happen when your body can’t cool itself. Normally, sweating is the human body’s first line of defense against the heat; but sometimes, that isn’t enough; and that’s where appropriate clothing can make all the difference, experts say.

"Yes, the color of clothing does affect the body temperature. In general, light-colored clothing, like my white coat I’m wearing right now, will reflect the suns rays away, and so, you don’t become as hot," explained Dr. James Mobley, with San Patricio Health Authority. "If you have black clothing, the sunlight is absorbed, the photons are absorbed and that increases the temperature."

Not just color, but texture, matters

According to Dr. Mobley, the right clothing also plays a role in helping the body sweat as well and not just its color. It’s also about the fabric itself, and how light or heavy it is.

"Of course, it’s also just as important to wear very light clothing, very thin that can allow the breeze to get through, and that can let moisture to get through. One of the very important things, if you’re outside, is the ability to sweat properly."

So if you plan on going outside, whether on the playing field or a construction site, wearing light colored, breathable clothing can help keep your body cool and prevent heat related illness.

Those at highest risk of heat-related illness are the elderly, the very young, those with mental illness or chronic disease.

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