Summertime & the livin’ is…. HOT! Depending on where you are in the world, it’s starting to get pretty hot and humid outside. While it’s gorgeous to look at and brings with it fun activities, if you’re anything like me, or many autoimmune sufferers, that heat also brings a lot of intolerance as well. Or maybe for you – it’s the cold that brings these feelings out!
The Nitty Gritty Research
An interesting study was done that looked at sensation and habituation in autoimmune patients, specifically with Fibromyalgia for the purposes of the study. The gist of the study is the difference between the ability to habituate a sensation, or get used to a feeling or, like a lot of autoimmune patients, dealing with temporal summation. Temporal Summation means that the sensation that you are usually able to get used to doesn’t happen with Fibromyalgia or Chronic Pain patients, and actually increases. This in turn (to oversimplify the study) leads to an increase in chronic pain and an inability to regulate and tolerate a variety of symptoms: pain, fatigue, depression, temperature, anxiety, etc. In some cases, as these symptoms are heightened (for example: when you are in a flare, or when you are just experiencing your normal day-to-day symptoms) the tolerance for temperature decreases drastically. I encourage you to read the entire research study, linked below, but to generalize the findings – it’s as if as we experience chronic pain or autoimmune diseases, our bodies lose the ability to pay attention and regulate other normal environmental changes and factors. For me, this is a very prevalent occurrence!
Environmental Factors & Heat
As is common with autoimmune diseases, there are so many environmental factors that may seem small in the grand scheme of life, but can cause a lot of problems and complications for individuals. Sometimes it’s not just the actual temperature either, it can be the addition of medications and sun sensitivity side effects as well.
Personally, temperature and weather are probably the most influential environmental factors to the symptoms of my autoimmune diseases. For me, I have severe heat intolerance and end up getting flu-like symptoms if the temperature is more than approximately 70°F – and my medications also cause sun sensitivity, so even with high SPF I end up burning easily as quickly as 20 minutes in direct sun. Fun, right?
Tools To Stay Cool
All of this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the summertime though. It depends on your individual situation, and please don’t do anything that makes you feel worse or exacerbates your symptoms. Or if you are unsure about certain scenarios, medication side effects, or questions particular to your medications or diseases, always reach out to your physician or care team. Nevertheless, preparing yourself with easy-to-access tools can help lessen the impact of the heat and temperature. Some things to add to your arsenal:
- Koldtec Neck Cooling Ice Packs
- Water, Water, Water (Have you read our post on proper Summer hydration?)
- Portable Fans
- Staying In The Shade
- Wear Cotton Materials In Cooler Colors
Being aware of the impacts of prolonged heat exposure is important for everyone, but knowing if you fall victim to heat intolerance or increased symptoms is essential for all Autoimmune Sisters! As always, pay attention to your body and what it is telling you. Most importantly, try not to feel like you are missing out or that you need to push through for the benefit of others. At the end of the day, your health and wellness is the first priority and of utter importance. Stay well, stay cool, stay hydrated!
- Smith, B. W., Tooley, E. M., Montague, E. Q., Robinson, A. E., Cosper, C. J., & Mullins, P. G. (2008). Habituation and sensitization to heat and cold pain in women with fibromyalgia and healthy controls. Pain, 140420-428. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2008.09.018