Warm or hot weather can be taxing for those of us with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Many of us have temperature sensitivities to either heat, cold or both. Getting overheated can lead to an increase in a host of symptoms.
We don’t know a lot about this symptom, but it’s believed to be a result of dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, which deals with homeostasis.
Our bodies just don’t seem to regulate temperature properly.
This isn’t a symptom that’s easy to treat, so we have to learn to manage it on our own. We need to figure out how to alleviate our overheating, but the best thing is to keep from getting too hot in the first place.
Preventing Heat Problems
The best ways to keep from getting too hot are to keep your environment cool and stay inside. However, those techniques aren’t always possible and could keep you from doing a lot of things you enjoy.
When you can’t avoid the heat, staying cool takes some forethought and preparation. Some good ways include:
- Sticking to cold food & drinks
- Using an umbrella for shade
- Wearing a visor instead of a hat
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes made of breathable fabrics
- Avoiding hot baths or showers, or rinse with cool water before getting out
- Avoiding hair-styling products that use heat
Cooling your environment can pose a special problem for people with FMS who have types of pain called thermal allodynia and mechanical allodynia.
Allodynia is when something that wouldn’t normally be painful does cause pain. With thermal allodynia, temperatures that don’t damage tissues can cause extreme pain. In mechanical allodynia, pain comes from something moving across the skin, and that can include air.
That rules out having a fan or air conditioner blowing directly on you.
If you have this problem and can’t move away from the blowing air, you might be helped by covering your skin with a light fabric.
When you do get overheated, you’ll likely feel better if you can cool yourself off right away. You’ll want to be prepared to cool down when you’re away from home, which can take some extra preparation.
Some ideas include:
- Carrying a cooler with ice packs
- Soaking your hands and/or feet in cold water
- Keeping cooling products on hand
Again, thermal allodynia can cause problems with these cooling methods. Be sure cold items aren’t too cold for you to tolerate so they don’t cause a pain spike. Proceed slowly and carefully!