Heat Safety Awareness: How Warm Weather Affects Certain Chronic Conditions

Posted and filed under Health Awareness.

Extreme temperatures can be uncomfortable for everyone, but for certain populations, summer weather is especially harsh – and in some cases, even dangerous. In particular, people with certain chronic illnesses may be at risk for heat-related complications. As you prepare for the warm season ahead, find out how you can beat the heat if you have a sensitivity below.

Conditions That Can Flare Up with Heat
Many conditions, even when controlled effectively, can be aggravated by extreme heat. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Multiple Sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the nervous system, triggering a number of symptoms including muscle weakness and pain. Many people with Multiple Sclerosis experience intensified symptoms in the heat, so much so that it’s been given a name: Uhthoff’s phenomenon. Even subtle body temperature increases can exacerbate symptoms, so do what you can to keep cool this summer. Limit outdoor activities, especially during the hottest part of the day, and wear light, breathable clothing.
  • Migraines: The relentless summer sun can intensify or bring on migraines in individuals who are prone to them. While your best bet is to stay indoors in a cool, dark room when you experience an episode, you can still enjoy outdoor activities when you’re feeling up to it. Just be sure to wear large, polarized sunglasses, and arm yourself with a wide-brimmed hat to prevent excess light exposure.
  • Rosacea: Characterized by redness and bumps, rosacea is a skin condition which can worsen with heat and sunlight. UV rays can lead to flare-ups, while excessive heat can dry out the skin, further triggering the condition. Most people with rosacea know to keep their skin protected during long stints of outdoor activity, but don’t forget about the shorter moments in between. Even walking into the grocery store or walking the dog can expose you to heat and sunlight.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus, known for causing joint pain, may be influenced by UV rays. Wearing protective clothing, or at the very least, applying an SPF 30 sunscreen or higher, may help.
  • Respiratory Illnesses: The dry season tends to make breathing more difficult and uncomfortable for people with conditions like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). One reason is the spike in wildfires. If you live near a zone prone to wildfires, minimize your outdoor time as much as possible, as air impurities can aggravate the lungs.

Of course, extreme heat can take its toll on anyone, including otherwise healthy older adults. Exercising indoors or in a cool pool, snacking on chilled, healthy treats like homemade ice pops, and staying in the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day are a few simple yet effective practices for avoiding any heat-related complications all summer long.

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