Fibromyalgia and Heat Sensitivity
With much of the U.S. experiencing temperatures in the 90 and 100 degree ranges, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how the heat affects many of us with fibromyalgia. Most people with fibromyalgia report having some kind of temperature sensitivity. Some are very sensitive to cold, others are sensitive to heat, and still others react to both.
I’m one of the heat-sensitive people. I sometimes describe myself as "hyper-sensitive" to heat. When temperatures get above 70, I’m uncomfortable. If they reach 75 degrees, I’m miserable. It feels as if every tissue in my body is swollen and I have difficulty breathing. I’ve been known to hyperventilate from trying to catch my breath. When I get overheated, my pain level goes way up and anything touching my skin is extremely painful - including my clothes.
As strange as it may sound to some, heat sensitivity is the most life-altering of all my FM symptoms - even worse than the pain and fatigue. Before I go anywhere, I have to make sure the temperature will be tolerable for me. I can’t tell you how many outings and events I’ve had to miss because of this problem. My children and grandchildren all go to the beach together every other summer, but I can’t go because it’s too hot. And I’ve had to miss my grandsons’ soccer games and birthday parties that were held outdoors in the summer. In the summer months, I’m basically held hostage in my own home where I can control the temperature.
Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different techniques and purchased dozens of products in my efforts to stay cool. Here are a few tips that have worked best for me when I simply can’t avoid the heat:
- Wear soft, lightweight clothing that fits very loosely. Stick to light colors because dark colors absorb heat.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you always have a cold drink (preferably water) to sip on. Avoid alcohol as it causes you to lose body fluids and tends to make you feel warmer.
- Take a cool bath or shower.
- Sometimes just soaking your feet in cool water (not ice water) can help cool your whole body down.
- If you don’t have an air conditioner, put a bowl of ice in front of a fan to help cool the air.
- Use an ice bag or cold pack. A few ice cubes in a sandwich bag, wrapped in a soft cloth works well. Rub the cold pack on your arms, legs, neck - wherever you are the warmest - to help cool yourself down.
- Carry a small, hand-held, battery-operated fan with you when you go out. They’re very inexpensive and many have the option of filling them with water so you can mist yourself with water as the fan is running.
Now I’d like to hear from you. If you have fibromyalgia, does the heat bother you? If so, do you have any tips that help you survive the summer heat? Please click "Comments" below to share.
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.