15 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat with This Fibromyalgia Survival Kit
Updated: Aug 23
Spending time outdoors on a very hot day holds the potential of leading to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, a concern that becomes particularly relevant for those of us with fibromyalgia. This is due to the unique way in which our fibromyalgia bodies manage body temperature. Let's explore why this matters:
Our body temperature naturally increases in response to rising external or internal temperatures. The vital process of regulating our internal temperature is accomplished by a region of the brain called the hypothalamus. Through neurological signals within the body's nervous system, the hypothalamus continually monitors our current temperature compared to the norm. When it senses an elevated internal temperature, it prompts the sweat glands to initiate the cooling process by enabling the release of sweat, helping to dissipate excess heat and maintain our comfort.
Research suggests that there is a dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system of fibromyalgia bodies that could affect the sweating functions, impeding the regulation of body heat, and making us more vulnerable on hot sunny days. This causes an increased tendency to have swollen hands and feet, increased pain, and overwhelming fatigue that can take us days and sometimes weeks to recover from! To avoid these discomforts and the risk of heat-related issues, it's essential for those with fibromyalgia to stay cool and comfortable during warmer weather.
While one way to beat the heat is to stay indoors in the comfort of air conditioning, we all know that summer will often call for outdoor adventures. Whether it's a day at the park or the beach with our little ones, a family camping trip, a weekend at a cottage, or an excursion to the city, there are moments when you just might find yourself having to manage your condition under the sun's relentless gaze. So what do you do when you know that fibromyalgia heat sensitivity can quickly turn a fun summer escapade into an intense exacerbation of your symptoms?
Fret not, for I've prepared a Fibromyalgia Summer Survival Kit to help you minimize heat stress and fight fatigue, by staying cool and comfortable during these times, So, let's jump right in!
1. Tote Bag: Grab a smart tote bag large enough to carry your survival kit essentials everywhere you go this summer.
2. Sun Hat: Breathability is a must in sun hats. Straw hats, in particular, are known for their light and breathable feel. There are also other hats made of lightweight nylon, polyester, or linen, and with a UPF rating of 50, even a light-color fabric will ensure maximum UV protection.
3. Clothing: Opt for loose, light-colored garments in white, cream, and pastels that won't absorb sunlight as dark colors do. Breathable natural fibers such as lightweight cotton, chambray, and linen can feel like wearing a built-in air conditioner for your body! Keep in mind though that if you wear a synthetic rayon it will work best in dry heat, while synthetic blends (think: athletic wear) can be great in humid climates, they'll also keep their shape and need little to no maintenance (like ironing!). Consider packing an extra set of clothes in your tote bag as a backup.
4. Footwear: Don't forget comfortable sandals, or open-toe shoes with low heels, soft cushioning, and proper arch support. These can make a huge difference at the end of each summer day of adventures.
5. Cool Air: Seek out air-conditioned buildings to get a break from the sun whenever you can. Look for a location with shade or a refreshing breeze. Pack a hand-held portable fan and wear a neck fan for added relief while you're outside.
6. Beach or Golf Umbrella: Instant shade on the go! When there are too few trees around to provide cooling shade, a beach or golf umbrella is perfect for shielding you from the sun.
7. Thermal Containers: Thermal bottles, bags, and coolers are your summer friends! They help you stay well-hydrated and nourished by keeping water, beverages, mocktails, and fresh foods cool for a long time.
8. Food: Avoiding heavy and hot foods, as well as alcohol, will go a long way to prevent both discomfort and dehydration.
9. Cool Down Key Points on the Body: Store a couple of damp facecloths in a thermal bottle or sealed sandwich bags tucked away in your cooler, or buy yourself a cooling towel that will provide up to 4 hours of relief. Applying these to strategic points on the body where the veins are close to the surface — such as the wrists, neck, chest, temples, and underarms — can quickly lower the temperature of the blood running through your veins, allowing the body to more rapidly feel cooler.
10. Cool Water: As fibro bodies will often prefer cool over cold, swimming in cool water or taking a lukewarm shower or bath can reduce body temperature.
11. Chill Out: The body releases heat when it moves. In hot temperatures, you're likely to feel less hot by avoiding strenuous activity, limiting your movement, and taking frequent resting breaks preferably out of the direct sun.
12. Planning: Knowing that the summer heat tends to peak around 12 noon, plan your day accordingly. Most of your physical activities could be earlier or later in the day, while most of your meals and rest periods could be taken between 11 AM and 1-2 PM, for example.
13. Comfort Snacks: If heat tends to trigger nausea for you or if you're sensitive to motion sickness, a small handful of plain salted chips or pretzels can do wonders on those occasions, to reset your stomach almost instantly!
14. Anti-Nausea Solutions: Alternatively, soothing hot or cold teas like ginger, chamomile, peppermint, or fennel have been shown to be very effective for managing nausea. If, however, you need something stronger to reset your stomach, your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on other safe options.
15. Cool Supplements: Some supplements may help regulate body heat, depending on the person. A 2018 study that compared plant extracts found that evening primrose oil and black cohosh effectively reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in people going through perimenopause or menopause.
While a Fibromyalgia Summer Survival Kit can help you cope with those occasional summer outings, it helps to keep in mind that sometimes high body heat may be caused by a condition other than fibromyalgia!
For example, you might be feeling hot and unable to cool down all the time lately and notice other symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, tremors, anxiety, and confusion. These may be signs of an overactive thyroid. Similarly, perimenopause and menopause can cause sudden severe hot flashes during the day or night, restlessness, anxiety, lethargy, and increased difficulties with concentration and memory. Either way, if you notice any pattern related to changes in your body temperature especially if combined with other new symptoms, it would be wise to consult with your doctor or health practitioner to find out the reason and seek appropriate treatment.
When is it an emergency? When you feel that you can no longer cope! Never hesitate to call 911 or your Emergency Services for your area if you are in distress due to the heat. Safety always comes first!
Share Your Tips: If you like this Fibromyalgia Summer Survival Kit, please share it with other people you know and follow me for more helpful blog posts in the future. Also, share your own cool-down tips in the comments below. Your wisdom could help fellow fibro warriors in the future!
Remember, it's easier to prevent heat-related issues than to deal with them afterward. Stay cool, stay hydrated, stay safe, pace yourself, and have a wonderful summer!
Gisèle McDiarmid, RN (N-P), HCA-RHC
Registered Health Coach
Certified Fibromyalgia Coach ®
Helping fibromyalgia patients take back control over their health and lives again!