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Tips for Heat Sensitivity with Fibromyalgia and Arthritis

How to Beat the Heat: Or At Least How To Try & Get Along With It

Tips for Heat Sensitivity with Fibromyalgia and Arthritis: Today’s topic is about heat sensitivity with fibromyalgia and arthritis, or really any kind of chronic illness if you think about it. As I live in subtropical Taiwan and we are still experiencing 40C weather with 90% humidity even in mid August, I feel my post is still timely even though I meant to post it in July during the dog days of summer.

I’m usually home in Canada during the hottest months of summer in Taiwan. I haven’t been able to do that for the past four years because of the pandemic, so these last few summers, I’ve suffered. This summer I thought I was heading home for sure only to find out that I was too sick to fly.

The axSpA flare that I’m in right now started last July and I suspect some of it had to do with the heat and humidity aggravating my health. When I consider a family history of temperature regulation problems to my own inability to handle heat and cold well, it’s not silly to say that heat and humidity are major triggers for me. (My dad has Graves and hyperhidrosis and he suffers greatly as well.) I tend to lean towards his episodes with excessive sweating during summer months.

On March 6 (yup, MARCH) I was at a women’s swap, which was the last event I was able to attend this year coincidentally. I was sweating so hard, I had sweat running down my face and my shirt was soaked. As I was trying to escape, a friend caught me at the door and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m pouring sweat. My mask is soaked. She looks cool as a cucumber. What is she thinking as I’m clearly in heat distress.’

I’m sure I overthought that incident, but anyone who suffers from heat problems will likely recognize the shame and embarrassment that goes into these kinds of things.

To add to all of this, my arthritis medications make me sun sensitive, so when I say that I’ve lived indoors since summer started in May, it’s true. I’ve rarely ventured outside. If I have gone outside, it hasn’t been until at least 5pm when the worst of the jungle heat is gone.

So today’s post is my yearly reminder – an extended version of what I post on social media – that includes information about heat sensitivity with fibromyalgia and arthritis.

Taiwan is always hot and humid. Tropical island life can be deadly for those of us with temperature regulation problems. And with climate change affecting everyone everywhere, it’s a reminder of simple things we can do to try and alleviate the worst of our symptoms.

Do heat and humidity make your disease symptoms flare?

People with arthritis and/or fibromyalgia often notice a connection between humidity or temperature and increased joint pain symptoms. So the answer to this question for me is a resounding yes.

It’s quite common for patients to have heat sensitivity or heat intolerance.

“The National Fibromyalgia Association supports the link between weather and fibromyalgia-related pain. Overall, many people with fibromyalgia have “temperature sensitivity” or a worsening of their symptoms with extreme temperature fluctuations, whether it’s hot or cold.”

National Fibromyalgia Association

Many people with arthritis find they have more stiffness and pain as the humidity rises and barometric pressure drops—as can happen before a typhoon. (Hello Taiwan weather!)

Here are some tips I use for heat sensitivity with arthritis and fibromyalgia:

  • Stay hydrated and drink lots of water. This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people are constantly dehydrated. Up your water intake especially during the summer.
  • Fruit and veggies are also a great source of water. A fifth of your daily water intake comes from what you eat, so eat well. Be sure to eat the rainbow when it comes to natural foods.
  • Wear light, comfortable, loose clothing.
  • Take a quick, cool shower before bed. (In Taiwan, most people take a cold shower in the morning and at night.)
  • Stay cool by using the AC. So this is a point I struggle with because I’m always trying to keep my energy use in check and minimize my carbon footprint in as many ways as possible. But for two months out of the year, there is no question that I have to use the AC otherwise I’d be in the hospital non-stop. Many folks in this area of the world will head to malls or shops where they can take advantage of free AC. When I was still able to walk, it wasn’t uncommon for me to duck into convenience stores whenever I was on the street to get a cool blast of air. I feel no shame in that.
  • No AC unit? Try putting a bowl of ice water in front of a fan to cool down. (It works!)
  • Use cold packs to cool down. (I like to stuff them everywhere!) I keep a wide range cold therapy packs in my freezer at all times.
  • Use a cooling towel for your face and neck. (My favorite option to beat the heat!) So apparently these are a new concept to my North American friends. I sent a few home to my dad a few summers ago and he loves them, especially on golf days. You can find them everywhere in Taiwan though and you’ll see people sporting them on the streets. These towels are quick and easy to use. You soak them in cool water or under a tap, then wring and snap to get the excess water out, and then wrap it around your neck, head, limbs, etc.
  • I have an ice cap for my head that works wonders. You can find them under ‘migraine hats’ and they come with mini freezer packs that you can use to cool down, whether you have a migraine or not.
  • Avoid the heat of the day! If you’re concerned about the heat, stay inside. Don’t go outside between noon and 4pm unless you have to. As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t been outside at all this summer. I stay inside until 4:30pm at the earliest in Taiwan during July and August.
  • A cooling mattress pad and cooling pillows helps you stay cool at night. I have bamboo sheets and satin pillowcases in addition to my cooling mattress pads and pillows.
  • Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen if you do have to be outside. Vitamin D is important which is why I try to sit outside later in the day to catch the fading rays of the day.
  • Finally, make sure you keep the shades drawn to keep the heat out.

And that’s that. What’s your favorite cooling tip for beating the summer heat? I’d love to hear from you!

PS> My best tip is stay inside, use AC if you have it, use cooling towels liberally, STAY HYDRATED, and pretend you’re outside until the worst of it passes. (As illustrated in my cover photo of me sitting by the window in my swimsuit INSIDE.)

Additional Resource Reading:

Versus Arthritis: Managing Your Arthritis in Warm Weather

Healthcentral: Fibromyalgia and Heat Sensitivity

VeryWell Health: How Summer Heat May Worsen Your Chronic Pain

My Spondylitis Team: Weather and Spondylitis

Don’t Forget To Pin It!

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!

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