10 Ways to Beat the Heat When Chronically Ill

Summer is here, and it’s hot! I mean really hot! Many of us with chronic illnesses have a sensitivity to heat. I’ve never particularly liked hot weather, and I can’t believe there are people who do; but, since I became chronically ill, I really cannot tolerate extreme heat. I feel weak, dizzy and faint. Although I have never fainted from the heat, I’ve come close. So, for those of us who have issues with the extreme summer weather, I thought I’d put together a list of things that have helped me beat the heat.

1. Drink, drink, drink! I’m one of those people who rarely gets thirsty. So, I have to make a conscious effort to consume liquids. While there’s nothing like an ice-cold glass of water to cool you off, I also drink sports drinks like Powerade and Gatorade; I think they help some of my autonomic nervous system symptoms. I’ve also been known to drink a Diet Coke or two a day. I know they aren’t good for me, but they quench my thirst and, at times, nothing else quite hits the spot.

glass of ice water

2. Plan outside activities and errands for early in the morning or late in the day if possible. It’s hard to believe that getting out of an air-conditioned car and going into an air-conditioned building can cause someone to overheat, but those of us with a chronic illness know that it can, and it does.

3. Pace yourself. In extreme heat, you really do have an excuse to let a few things go undone. If you have a reason to go out in the heat, plan on doing the bare minimum, no matter what the time of day. I’m not sure how it works, but even when I’m at home in the A/C, I find the heat zaps all of my energy. I have to be careful how much I try to do in one day.

4. Stay out of the kitchen! Or, at least don’t turn the oven on. Crockpots are perfect for hot weather as are cold sandwiches. If you need one, extreme heat is a great excuse to get carry-out or go out to dinner.

5. Dress appropriately. Lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is best. Here’s some useful information on choosing a summer wardrobe: A guide to breathable summer fabrics. At times, it’s best to dress in layers. A lightweight sweater or jacket might be necessary for a building that is overly air-conditioned.

6. Use tools designed to help you beat the heat. Cooling towels and pillows, spray bottles/misters and personal fans are all helpful and not very expensive. If you aren’t familiar with cooling towels, they are towels made of a special material that keeps cool. You get them wet, wring them out and place them around your neck. Some people find that helps a lot, others not so much. I’m one of the people who find them very helpful.

7. Eat light, smaller meals that are easy to digest. Also, allow yourself some frozen treats. Popsicles made from 100 percent juice, smoothies made from fresh fruit and low-fat ice cream are all good at cooling your body down.

orange ice cream bar

8. Cool your house. Close curtains and blinds in the heat of the day, turn off heat-producing appliances and have your central air-conditioning system checked in the spring. Our system is aging, and the past few years we’ve needed coolant added. Besides the addition of coolant, the serviceman also cleans and checks to see that the A/C is working efficiently. The spring check-up costs a small bit of money up front, but making sure the system is operating properly can save money in cooling costs and possibly prevent a major problem from occurring in the heat of the summer.

9. Water is your friend. Besides drinking water, swimming, taking cool showers and playing in the water are all good ways to cool you down. Take advantage of whatever is available to you, even if that’s only a super soaker squirt gun.

person swimming in a pool

10. Remember cooler weather is right around the corner. The heat of summer seems as though it lasts forever, but it doesn’t. In just a few short months, we’ll all be starting to complain about how cold it is. Then, you can read about how to stay warm during the winter. Seriously though, the seasons come and go quickly, so it’s best to find something to enjoy about each one.

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Thinkstock photo via tommaso79.

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