By Donna Gregory Burch
Ah summer! For many people, it’s time for cool dips in the pool, burgers on the grill and long walks on the beach.
But for those of us with fibromyalgia, the summer heat and humidity can cause our symptoms to flare and worsen.
Since so many of us struggle during the summer months, I decided to reach out to some of my fellow fibromyalgia bloggers and ask for their best tips for managing the challenges that come with excessive heat and humidity. I hope you enjoy their responses.
Sarah Borien, A Life Less Physical
My top tip for surviving the summer with fibromyalgia is to take things slowly. It can be frustrating, especially when it feels like all your friends are at outdoor concerts or on daytrips filled with activities, but you’re more likely to make the most of the sunshine by taking your time and embracing the art of slow living.
The best thing you can do to survive summer is to maintain the practical approach to self-care that you apply all year round. Enjoy the sunshine, but don’t forget to look after yourself.
Casey Cromwell, Casey the College Celiac
During the busy season of summer, it’s especially important that you pace yourself. Summer is often when families are jumping from one fun activity to the next. However, you can still have an amazing summer while respecting your body’s limits. Go to the beach one day, and then arrange to see a movie in an air-conditioned movie theater on the next. Do more exercise than you’re used to by going on a family hike, but then spend the night relaxing by the bonfire, telling silly stories.
As a college student, it can be easy for me to hear about my friends’ insane summer adventures and feel like I’m being boring in comparison. However, I also know that dealing with a fibro flare-up from over-activity isn’t fun either…and that, by pacing myself, I’m enjoying ALL of summer as much as I can.
Donna Gregory Burch, Fed Up with Fatigue
Lately I’ve been taking 10-20 minutes in the morning when it’s cooler to sit in the sun with my bare feet on the ground. Doing this has several benefits. First, I’m absorbing much-needed vitamin D, which has been shown in research studies to lessen pain. Second, by placing my bare feet on the ground, I’m exposing my body to the Earth’s natural energies, a practice called grounding or earthing. Third, the fresh air and nature sounds help calm my over-reactive nervous system and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Shelley Smith, Chronic Mom
Probably the easiest and most effective strategy I’ve adopted is to always wear breathable clothing. For example, instead of wearing shorts, I wear skirts or dresses. This allows for more airflow, which allows sweat to evaporate while keeping you cool.
I’ve also learned that the type of fabric you wear is important. You always want to wear something that is lightweight because heavy fabrics stick to your skin and trap sweat, making it easier for your body to overheat. Jeans, for example, are terrible in hot weather and should be exchanged for cotton or linen.
Donna Grant, February Stars
Like many, fatigue is my worst fibromyalgia symptom. When hot weather is added into the mix, my fatigue can become even more debilitating.
I’ve therefore learned a few tips that help get me through the summer months. The most important tip for me is also the most simple: I need to remember to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is really important for me as it helps me to feel as well as possible. As soon as I become dehydrated, my fatigue worsens. When my fatigue increases, eventually my pain does, too.
Drinking umpteen glasses of water a day can get dull pretty quickly though. I, therefore, take advantage of the fruits that are in season. Fresh berries, such as strawberries or blackberries, can be a tasty and healthy addition that makes water much easier to drink. I also like to add ice cubes to my water to help keep me cool as I can sometimes struggle to regulate my body temperature.
Kim Johnson, I Tripped Over a Stone
Summer for those of us with fibromyalgia can bring on many coexisting symptoms, but fighting the heat is our number one battle. I have a trick: chopped ice. Not only does this regulate our body temperature but ice aids in digestion issues.
After meals and anytime you feel the acid building, don’t reach for antacids. Try a glass of chopped ice. I recommend purchasing a mini-chopper. I like the Ninja brand; it will chop your ice to a snow-like texture.
Lucy Lewis, The Thyroid Damsel
Heat makes fibro symptoms flare. If you can’t get an air-conditioned room or unit, you can make your own cool room. Get a bowl of ice and a desktop fan. Put the fan behind the ice bowl, and it will constantly blow very cold air around the room.
Kimberly Penix, Grace is Sufficient
Create a summer bucket list. Make a list of a few things you’d like to see or do this summer. That way, if you wake up feeling like you could handle a short outing, you have a list ready to go, and you don’t spend precious energy or time searching and deciding what you’ll do that day. All that day’s energy can go right into your bucket list item.
Taking time to play is so essential for your overall wellbeing. Find out where your community posts local events. You might find nights where they have music in the park or other similar things you might enjoy.
Kirsten Schultz, Not Standing Still’s Disease
- Dress in (soft) layers – One of the things that I struggle with is being too hot one minute and too cold the next. By bringing along layers or blankets, I know that I will be easily prepared for any change – whether that’s in the weather or my body.
- Protect your skin – If I get sunburned, it seems to cause a fibro flare. That’s why it’s so important to protect my skin. I always take sunblock with me, try to make sure I have shade nearby and drink plenty of fluids when I’m outside.
- Set a timer – One great tool to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, reapplying sunblock or taking in enough fluids is the timer on your phone. You can usually set multiple timers and, if you have a smartphone, use different sounds or songs for different things.
- Chilly towel – One last thing that’s always great is to have one of those cooling towels with you when you’re out and about, especially if you’re going to be in the sun. All it needs is a little water to cool back down, so it’s a great reminder to bring fluids with you, too! I have one, and it’s saved me from overheating a lot.
Terri Sutula, Reclaiming Hope
Pre-planning can help prevent or lessen the impact of being out in the summer heat. Here are a few ways planning ahead can help:
- If you know you have to be outside, set your alarm for a little earlier so you have time to get moving and still get outside before it gets too hot.
- If you’re going to be in and out of stores, etc., you might want to take a light jacket or sweater. If you’re like me, it may be sweltering outside, but with a lack of any real internal thermostat, when you walk inside, you’re freezing. I usually keep something in the car for that very purpose.
- To ensure you have cold water, pop a couple of bottles of water in the freezer the night before and grab them as you go out. They’ll melt fairly quickly in the heat, but your water will remain cold. The frozen water bottles can also be wrapped in a towel and used as a portable ice pack to cool you down if needed.
Melissa Swanson, Fibro Warriors ~ Living Life
Like other fibromites, I experience heat sensitivity, and I just can’t do hot days. Surviving summer can be easier with a few tips.
- Avoid wearing dark colors. Wear soft, lightweight, loosely fitted clothing.
- The best thing is to keep from getting too hot in the first place. Stay indoors during the peak heat of the day. Use a fan or air conditioner.
- Stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. At the lake, I sit in a lawn chair in the water under a shade tree.
- Don’t hibernate. It is easy to just stay inside all day. Be sure to get some sunshine. The extra vitamin D will help manage symptoms.
A little effort and with the help of the tips above, you can not only survive summer but enjoy your outdoor time.
About the Author
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.