When you have a chronic illness, you may have a harder time adjusting to sudden climate changes and temperature extremes. Heat intolerance, the inability to sweat (anhydrosis), and excess sweating (hyperhydrosis) are all common symptoms that plague the chronically ill, especially those with dysautonomia.
Before I had POTS, I used to sweat so much, I was actually considering surgical removal of my sweat glands. Now with POTS, I just wish I COULD sweat a little! Heat intolerance and my inability to sweat are some of my worst symptoms with dysautonomia.
It’s only mid-May and I am heavily reconsidering why living in the South was ever a good idea. We went from snowing in April to nearly 100 degrees a month later! My POTS does not like this at all. After googling fervently for igloos for rent in Alaska, or an ice-cave couch surfing gig near the arctic circle, I soon realized that my dwindling bank account would keep me stuck in my own mini house igloo in North Carolina this summer.
Although my body may not go insane because of the cooler temps indoors, I’m unsure about my own mental sanity after three to four months of cabin fever, so here are a few tips and tricks I learned from last summer to brave the outdoors in the hot summer months.
- Know your climate.
North Carolina is very much like living in a hot shower with the shower door trapped close and you feel like you are slowly suffocating from the intense humidity. I wish I was joking, but I’ve seen weather reports with 100% humidity here in the summer.
So when I’m looking for summer survival techniques, I don’t only have to tackle the heat, but also the humidity. Because of the high humidity, just because the sun goes down, doesn’t mean that relief is here. In climates with higher humidity, your best time of outdoor freedom is in the early morning soon after sunrise.
To learn more about heat maps and hourly temperature averages for your city, you can use websites like Weather Spark.
- Stay Hydrated
Heat is your body’s greatest enemy to keeping hydrated. Heat opens your pores, brings blood to the surface of your skin to cool off, and pulls water out through sweat, leaving you dry, dehydrated, and feeling hot. So how do you keep ahead of the game?
Easy: Pregame and don’t just drink straight water.
Start your day with a tall glass or two of water and fill your body’s water stores before you leave the house. Two liters of water a day is a pretty standard recommendation for people to drink, but that is in the absence of exercise or heat OR POTS! Try filling two liters every night and using those 3.bottles as a daily minimum before leaving the house.
Drinking a lot of plain water is great for your body, but it does not replenish your electrolytes and salts lost through sweat. Gatorade or Powerade may be an easy choice, but it’s not necessarily the best choice for your body. It is filled with excess sugars, colors, and artificial flavors. You can try Normalyte, Ultima Replenisher, Vega Sport Hydrator, Trioral electrolyte solution, Nuun, or even Pedialyte. Based off your medical needs, they have a varying amount of salt and sugar, but all of them will help with electrolyte replenishment!
3. Salt UP
Unless you have hyper POTS or high blood pressure, following your doctor’s recommended salt intake during summer months is critical. Consuming salt raises your blood pressure by increasing water retention in the body. If drinking high salt electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte, Normalyte, and Trioral isn’t doing the trick, you might need to add a salt supplement.
Doctor’s often recommend adding extra salt to your food or taking in salt pills that you find at the pharmacy. However, I have found that my taste buds have a salt limit and if I don’t want to have a pissed off tongue for the rest of the day, I may need to take in more salt via pills. Some salt pills can upset your stomach, but my favorite one so for is Vitassium Salt Sticks. They even come in capsules, so if you need the salt rush fast, you can even break apart the pill and pour the salt into your drinks. Honestly, I can’t even taste it! You can also buy some of their salt chews as well.
But, the cheapest salt content per dollar is definitely the Trioral Electrolyte Solution. It is only 40 CENTS per liter off Amazon and there is a whopping 2.6 GRAMS of salt per liter. I drink about 3-4 of these per day in the summer with a scoop of Ultima for flavor.
Money Saving Tips
- Normalyte gives you a discount if you buy in bulk from their site
- Amazon gives you the best Trioral deal
- Vega Sport Hydrator can be found under $20/bottle if you use Amazon Subscribe and Save
- Ultima Replenisher is also available on Amazon Subscribe and Save in certain flavors and is pretty cheap off Vitacost if you wait for a 20% off deal
- The cheapest pedialyte is available from Walmart, but be warned: it tastes nasty, so add in some flavoring!
4. Buy Cooling Products
Because I can’t sweat effectively, my body needs an external source to cool me down. Sometimes even in a freezing AC room, I still feel hot and need an extra cold push.
Last summer, I used hand-held fans, spritzing spray fans, cooling towels and scarves. But this summer, I’m not messing around. I need to get to the next level cooling and after researching what people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) use because of their heat intolerance, I found Polar Products.
You can buy products based upon your medical condition and where you feel hot the most. For me, it is definitely in the face, chest, and stomach, which is why I opted for a vest, a half vest to wear under clothes, and a bra cooling insert.
Pros and Cons for the Vest
- The XS actually fits a small person. I am 5’2″ and only 108 pounds (and gaining!!!) so I was looking for something that could actually fit.
- The phase 58 packs are AMAZING and can freeze in only about an hour or can be recharged in ice water… think a cup with ice cubes in it or a bathroom sink. So there is no need to carry a cooler with them. I actually just use the packs alone without the vest to help fall asleep at night or shove them in my pant pockets.
- Cons the vest looks like a bomb jacket. I’m unsure about the “fashion” part of these, but I think the black would look better. I got the khaki (See picture below). But, it doesn’t matter– I don’t care what people think. If this gets me to safely get to a car in 100+ degree NC summer heat, I’m game.
Pros and Cons for the Half Vest
- The size chart for this ran a little high so I had to exchange for size. I will update this when I get the smaller one and can try it out! Either way, I’m stoked.
Pros and Cons for the Bra Insert
- These are just straight genius. The phase 58 technology with the ability to be shoved in your sports bra. It acts as a body cooler AND a breast enhancer! What a win!
- If you are a measly A/B cup like me it might be a little bit too bulky. I suspect they would look better and feel more comfortable for someone who has been blessed with a larger chest.
- I also like these because they are thin and can fit into my purse really well, so if I’m ever in a heat crisis or have a hot flash, I can take one of these out and shove them where they are needed.
Note: In the pic above I’m wearing the cooling vest with three extra packs stuffed under my clothes. Someone is happy about attending a graduation now.
Most cost effective option: Just buy the phase 58 packs by themselves and stuff them where they are needed. I would suggest a minimum of two. Only $15 each!
5. Cool Your Car
Cars in the summer heat can reach extremely high temperatures during the summer. Here are some tips to making that transition not one you will end up in the ER from:
- Window sun protectors
- Baby window shades in the back seats
- Clip on fans for the steering wheel
- Emergency Pedialyte bottles in case of breakdown
- Parking in the shade or parking garages.
- Using your handicap placard to park closer, then turn on your car’s AC and wait indoors while your car cools down.
Other Tips and Tricks:
- Get insulated water bottles to keep your water cool
- Take cooler showers in the morning and before you go to sleep
- Stay out of direct sunlight, use sunglasses and hats to protect yourself from the sun
- Wear compression gear!
- Use dehumidifier in your house, especially your bathroom while showering
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