9 Ways to Help Calm Your Chronic Pain in the Summer Heat
What many people who are “healthy” often don’t realize is the influence of weather on people dealing with chronic pain or chronic illnesses. For me, heat is way worse than cold. Even healthy people will notice it. When it’s extremely hot you will feel more tired. Imagine that amplified by a thousand times while you’re already in a lot of pain.
I am an incredibly honest person, however my chronic pain has changed this. Not only am I lying about feeling “fine,” but also when it comes to my opinion about summer. I’ve always said that I hated summer. Then, of course, you often get the question “Why?” Not wanting to tell the real reason because most of the people don’t even know you’re chronically ill, but also even with the ones who do know you’re ill, because you just don’t feel like explaining it. Explaining it already takes way too much energy.
Now, when I’m talking about heat, I think this is one of the worst things through the year. I can handle the colds that I very quickly get due to a weak immune system, but the heat just sucks all of the energy out of you. I can only be out in the heat for short amount of time. If it’s above 72 degrees, it already gets harder for me. Especially here in the Netherlands, because it’s not just really warm, it’s also extremely humid. Most of the time I just barely do anything and stay inside. I strategically only plan things that are later in the evening when it has cooled down or that are inside because of air conditioning.
The horrible thing is that when it gets really warm, my body completely shuts down. All I can think of then is lying in bed and doing nothing. With heat, everything you do takes 10 times the amount of energy that it normally already does, which makes small chores even harder.
One of the most memorable moments for me was very recent. Finally, for the first time in four years, I decided to take a gamble and go along on a study trip to the beautiful Rome. However, I already knew what the weather was going to be. The first day I was lucky, it was a bit rainy but mainly just chilly, which was great for me. But then the day after it was 82 degrees, and this was the most active day as we were visiting all kinds of tourist locations that included a lot of walking. At one point I choose to stay behind and sit down because my body wouldn’t allow me to walk any more stairs. The feeling is indescribably terrible. Having to stop something amazing you’re doing because you’re body doesn’t allow you.
From my experiences after living six years with chronic pain, here are some tips if you do chose to battle the heat:
1. Purchase a fan.
Seriously. Especially if your home can heat up very quickly, invest in a fan. Not only an electrical one, but I also own a Chinese folding fan I can take with me in my purse. It can take off that edge and make you feel a bit better. Every small way to cool down can help you get through the day.
2. Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
If you’re going outside, a cap or something like that can already help. I have very sensitive eyes so sunglasses are a must. But when you can stay out of direct sunlight. Look for shaded places – the difference in heat is often significant.
3. Drink lots of water!
This is for everyone, but especially for people with chronic pain and illness. When it heats up you need way more water. You need to hydrate your body. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue and dizziness. It can also make any of your already existing symptoms worse.
4. Eat enough.
Giving yourself the right vitamins and energy is very important. I always notice that during heat I crave fruit a lot. Heat takes a lot of your energy and you to replenish that energy. Don’t skip meals on hot days.
5. Take more breaks than usual.
The heat might take a toll on your body. Take more breaks than usual to sit down. If you’re with friends, offer to get ice cream or get a drink so you can sit down for a bit. Look for a place with some shade. Sitting in the sun can still take up lots of energy.
6. Make sure to cool down every once in a while.
As I said before, offer to get ice cream or a drink. Cool down. You can do this at home by using an ice pack on your forehead (or anything frozen) or taking a cold or lukewarm showers. However, watch out with going from extremely hot to extremely cold. Sometimes starting out with something lukewarm is better.
7. Dress according to the weather.
Don’t wear a sweater in the heat. Thick clothing will heat you up even more and take even more energy. Dress accordingly and choose thin materials. Take out that nice summer dress or those nice shorts. You could even go to the beach so you could just wear a bathing suit.
8. Go swimming.
Like I said, go to the beach. Swimming is a nice exercise which is easy to minimize. Water can also ease pain. You can also go to a local (inside) swimming pool. Here you can completely escape the sun and enjoy the cool waters.
9. Take a day off.
Sometimes the heat just takes a toll and there’s nothing you can do about it. Give yourself a break. It’s OK to just stay inside with your fan on the maximum speed next to your bed while you watch Netflix and eat ice cream. Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to go out. However, Netflix and ice cream doesn’t sound so bad now does it?
For everyone with chronic pain, take it easy. Or, if you know anyone with chronic pain, take it easy on them during the summer. Going through the day can already be hard enough without dealing heat. With chronic pain and chronic illnesses, heat can really take over your whole day and ruin all of your plans.
Don’t be defeated – luckily, all seasons come and go and spring will be right around the corner.
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Thinkstock Image By: warrengoldswain