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It’s been several years since I was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and while I have seen some significant improvements in my symptoms, I still struggle with the heat. I am someone who likes to face challenges head-on, which is why I’m quitting my job and returning to school to become the next POTS researcher.
The kicker in all of this? It’s in Texas. I remember reading about the Levine Protocol soon after I was diagnosed with POTS at Duke University. Why in the world are the top exercise physiologists for POTS in Texas of all places? It’s hot as hell down there! I would never live in Texas with POTS. Fast forward six years and here I am, joining a research laboratory at the University of North Texas that specializes in heat therapy and physiology.
Naturally, the heat is making me pretty anxious. Texas is experiencing one of the worst heat waves this summer and temperatures are climbing north of 110-degrees. On top of that, the Texas power grid is also struggling to keep up, making power outages and black outs more likely than usual to occur. As someone who takes the heat very seriously, I’ve been planning extensively for this move.
There are so many small, but incredibly important considerations most people who don’t live with chronic illnesses overlook when preparing for day-to-day life in a new environment. For me, ensuring that I don’t have more than 10 minutes of heat exposure greater than 90-degrees is tough down South. The best thing I can do is prepare myself as best as possible for a power outage and limit exposure as much as possible otherwise. Here’s what I’m doing to prepare:
- Doubling up on my cooling gear. I have talked about using two cooling vests before on my blog, and it’s still one of my go-to resources for keeping cool in extreme heat. Usually, I start with an UnderCool by ThermApparel. This invisible cooling vest can be worn under your clothes, so it’s something I wear throughout the day and just exchange the cooling packs every few hours in a bathroom. Then, when I have to be outside to get to my car or change classes, for example, I wear another, more traditional cooling vest over my clothes. I much prefer my UnderCool because it doesn’t make me look like a 28-year-old girl scout, but this combination has worked very well for me in the past. Plus, UnderCool just came out with an extendedCool packs that I’ve found stay cool significantly longer than the originals, which I’ve really appreciated.
- Buying myself a small lithium-powered generator. Why? So that if the power goes out, I can plug in my portable freezer that houses all my cooling gear and turn on an evaporative cooler. Plus, I can take it with me camping in the winter and bring my cool packs with me on the road! Because my cooling packs can “freeze” at temperatures as high as 70-degrees, my portable freezer doesn’t need to use much power to keep everything ready for use.
- Installing a remote start for my car. This is critical. Cars heat up extremely quickly, so being able to cool it down as fast as possible is super important. You can have your car dealership or a mechanic install one in a car that didn’t originally come with one. I’m super stoked for this upgrade on my 2007 Honda Pilot. (The new hot pink and white seat covers instead of black leather is also an amusing plus!)
Overall, I’m incredibly excited about advancing research about heat exposure so that in the future, people with severe heat intolerance like myself will be able to have more freedom in the summer. In the meantime, however, my cooling vests will become my favorite clothing item for six months out of the year. If you’re curious about how to apply for accommodations in school related to POTS and/or heat intolerance, stay tuned for my next story!