If you have a chronic illness, you know that the Florida summer heat can really do a number on your body. It can worsen fatigue, make you feel dizzy, nauseous and even cause skin rashes that are hard to manage.
Heat can put stress on your body that manifests into flares or other intense symptoms if we don’t make the appropriate lifestyle changes during the hot season.
So how do I enjoy the summer when I can’t be in the heat? There ARE ways to enjoy the season of sun AND take care of your health.
What HaPPENS IF I DON’T protect myself from the heat?
If you don’t ever take the initiative to learn how to adjust your lifestyle during extreme temperatures, exposure to extreme heat OR cold without taking the proper precautions can actually cause you more pain and suffering. Being exposed to extreme heat while living in a warmer state, like Florida, can cause regular symptoms like pain and fatigue, to become more frequent and more intense. If you know how to prevent or avoid excessive exposure you CAN still participate in activities you enjoy. Maybe you don’t want to miss that event that is outdoors, Maybe you stay inside all day during the summer and want to get out more. In either case, it’s worth it to educate yourself on ways to take control of extreme temperature and learn how it effects your body because your quality of life is important! When you decide to become an active manager of your illness, big changes can happen.
Making the heat work for you!
When you don’t learn how the heat effects your body and mind when you have a chronic illness, you are allowing it to be one more thing that begins to take control of your happiness. When you start to take necessary steps to manage your heat specific symptoms, you start to prioritize your quality of life. Prioritizing your own self care and wellness doesn’t make you selfish, it forces you to make decisions that allow you to live life on your terms. In turn, you are communicating your needs to those around you which helps them feel more useful. It also helps you find ways to do more of the things you love.
5 ways to beat the florida heat
Managing a chronic illness, means knowing you mind and body with a deep awareness of how your internal environment and your external environment are effecting each other. Educating yourself on all the different areas in your life that affect and are affected by your illness put you in a position of control over your health and happiness. This can be an overwhelming task, but that’s why I’m here! Keep reading for my 5 Ways to Beat the Florida Heat so that you can enjoy your summer AND effectively manage your illness.
- Research– The first thing we have to do is take a good look at what your specific illness and medication requirements are. The best way to do this is to consult with your doctor, pharmacist and even your disease specific information resource center to find out exactly how the heat can effect you and what to look out for. Lupus, for example, is often characterized by photo sensitivity that can manifest in skin rashes, extreme fatigue or even increased pain. Certain medications like antidepressants, can alter your body’s ability to regulate temperature or sweat. Knowing this very specific information can help you make more informed decisions during the extreme heat that can prevent serious incidents or symptoms from happening or help you know what to look out for if they do.
- Hydration– The next thing we want to keep track of is how many ounces of water or fluids we are taking in per day. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about hydration for your specific illness and medications and how they effect your ability to stay properly hydrated. Dehydration is one of the things that prevents our body from being able to regulate temperature so we want to prevent it at all costs. Bring water with you everywhere you go. Have extra water on hand during long trips away from home. A general rule is that if you are thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Make sure to not only drink water WHILE you are exercising or outdoors, but BEFORE & AFTER those activities as well. You want to make sure you’re drinking 1/3 your weight in ounces of water a day (or more in extreme temperatures). So for a 135lb woman, you want to drink 44.5 ounces a day. (145 x 1/3 = 44.55 ounces). Avoid alcohol as it makes us more dehydrated and know the signs of dehydration:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry skin (you no longer sweat)
- Decreased urine volume or abnormally dark urine
- Unexplained tiredness
- Rapid breathing
- Know Your Limits– Our bodies are designed to be at premium functioning at a core temperature of 98.6 degrees and when it rises above that, our central nervous system and other organ systems can begin to function poorly. We all respond differently to our bodies core temperature rising, but we know that when this happens our body gives us signs. Its your job to recognize these signs and adjust your activity accordingly or we risk over-doing which will only make it worse. We can also be preventative by taking frequent breaks. If you want to go to a park and know you will be outdoors for 2 hours, take 2-3 long breaks during that time to give your body a rest. If you want to travel on vacation, know how to make it as easy on your body as possible.
- Protect Yourself – Use preventative strategies to keep the sun from negatively effecting you when you are outdoors. Use spf 30 or higher sunscreen and apply it every hour. Wear UPF clothing that has built-in ultra violet protection. Cover as much of your skin as possible using wide brimmed hats, UPF clothing and portable shade. Find areas that are covered from the sun and do the best you can to stay out of direct sunlight. There are many other tools that help beat the heat such as cooling towels, personal fans and misters. You can even look on pinterest for DIY ideas to make these items at home!
- Expectation Adjustment – The biggest thing we can do for ourselves during the summer is adjust our expectations of what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be able to do in the summer. You might usually be able to walk the dogs everyday, but in the summer, you might adjust your walks to before sunrise or after sunset when it is cooler out. You might usually be able to run all your errands in one day, but during the summer you might want to adjust to breaking up your errands to get one thing done each day so that you can return to the air conditioning frequently. Beating the heat it all about prioritizing and adjusting so that you can still do the things you want or need to do while also taking care of your health. Instead of taking a walk to get your exercise, try swimming in pool or other water source. Instead of gardening during the day, try to garden early in the morning. Pace yourself and allow your body to rest when it needs to.
Remember, Living with any chronic illness, is a stressor that we (yes, I have it too!) have to manage every single day. The best way to manage the heat is to make sure we are educated bout how it affects us each personally, adjusting our expectations of what we can and can’t do, making sure we are prepared with tools to help avoid overexposure and over heating and to stay hydrated. Remember, If you are in need of additional support, seeing a therapist or counselor who specializes in chronic illness or chronic pain & is trained to break this down into manageable steps is a great place to start. You can find one in your state by visiting PsychologyToday.com & searching ‘Chronic illness’.
If you are in the state of Florida, I may be able to help! Send me a quick message to tell me how I can help you manage your illness below.
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Amanda Pratt, LCSW
Amanda is a licensed clinical social worker & therapist specializing in helping people with chronic illness manage the ups & downs of their disease. She is a speaker, teacher & contributing writer for The Mighty (www.themighty.com). Her office is based out of St. Petersburg, FL and she sees clients anywhere in the state of florida both in person and online.