Hot Topic

It’s not just in your mind. There’s a reason why early summer heat is hard to take.

Nora Zelevansky
4 min readJun 28, 2022


Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

A few days ago, I was standing on a subway platform in New York City, feeling faint from heat. Ninety-degree heat here is never ideal. Don’t even get me started on the smells.

I shifted in my plastic Birkenstocks, sighing in discomfort. My husband stood a few feet away from me in perfectly good spirits. He’s much more of a sweater than me, so perspiration was collecting on his forehead. And yet he remained content.

“What’s wrong with you?!” I barked, glaring at him. “Why are you so comfortable?”

He shrugged and stepped a foot away.

The truth is I usually run cold, a fact for which he teases me when I’m bundled in fleece in 60-degree weather — but, when the temperatures rise high, he also simply doesn’t mind the heat as much. He claims it’s because he grew up in Washington, D.C. during swampy summers without air-conditioning in his bedroom, so he’s accustomed to humidity. But standing there, holding my nose and dreaming of crystal blue pools, I began to wonder about other factors at work.

Why does one person feel insanely hot while another is perfectly fine? Why are hot days in early summer so much more jarring than later, when we’re accustomed to them, in August? And when is Apple going to invent an air conditioning app for my phone?

I decided to consult an expert: Mike Hoaglin, MD, medical director of DrHouse, a telehealth company providing on-demand urgent care and men’s and women’s health services throughout New York State.


According to the doctor, the human body’s core temperature is controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. If the body’s temp dips even one degree below normal (around 98.6 degrees F, usually), you’re likely to feel cold. If it gets too high, well, we all know what a fever feels like. But the surrounding temperature isn’t the only factor. “There are normal responses to hormonal signaling to the hypothalamus such as during menstruation and perimenopause, when hot flashes can occur,” he explains. Hot flashes. Oh, joy!



Nora Zelevansky

New novel: COMPETITIVE GRIEVING (Blackstone). New nonfiction: ROLL RED ROLL (Hachette ). Bylines: NY Times, T&C, WSJ etc.