By Yvonne Keeny, FCI Founder & Executive Director
As most people with fibromyalgia know, this illness is still not well understood by most of the medical community. It is known, though, there is a long list of symptoms that have been linked to fibromyalgia. One we don't hear much about is Temperature Sensitivity. Research has found that people with fibromyalgia who are exposed to hot weather report increases in muscle pain, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
We are also more likely to have heat rashes and heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
In response to a recent question on the Fibromyalgia Coalition International Facebook page, people with this illness ranked weather changes as one of the leading causes of an increase in symptoms. While most people looked forward to warmer temperatures, some patients dread the thought of hot weather.
Some fibromyalgia patients know they can expect a flare-up from the heat and high humidity; others agonize during cold weather months. One Portuguese study found that 70 percent of patients with fibromyalgia felt that weather changes had an influence on their pain.
People with fibromyalgia can't seem to adapt to temperature changes as well as healthy people. Interestingly, the study also found that patients who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for less than 10 years had significantly more weather sensitivity.
Other studies have shown that patients have a sensitivity to pain with both temperature extremes. Some patients with a sensitivity to cold weather also report feeling worse in humid, clammy conditions. However, there are people who experience fluctuations between being too hot and too cold. People who are sensitive to both heat and cold find these make fibromyalgia symptoms even worse.
Patients who suffer in a cold climate may thrive in a hot one, and vice versa. Such painful experiences have led some people to move to other parts of the country where the temperature remains moderate. Some in the United States migrate from northern states in the summer to southern states in the winter.
Heat may bother people with fibromyalgia because they don't sweat as quickly as others. Because there's limited blood flow in the skin, there's less ability to sweat.
Hot weather can make your body go through a painful experience. Fortunately, some simple strategies can help keep you more comfortable.
- Maintain a cool atmosphere around yourself. Keep the air conditioning low. If you don't have air conditioning, get a respite from the heat at an air-conditioned mall or movie theater.
- Using a cold pack can help you cool off. Cool, damp cloths on your neck or ice cubes on your wrists can ease the effects of the heat, too.
- Wear light weight, loose-fitting clothing, so they don't stick to your body. Light colors keep you cooler than dark colors.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Fibromyalgia patients become dehydrated quickly, which can lead to headaches, pain, and fatigue. (Don't like the taste of water? Squeeze a little orange, lemon or lime juice in it.)
- Take cool showers or baths, go for a swim, or soak your feet in cold water to lower your body temperature.
- Keep cooling items, like a cold pack or fan with you all the time even when you're traveling.
- Avoid going outside in the heat of the day. Run errands early in the day.
Fluctuations in weather conditions can make fibromyalgia worse, so plan ahead and spend time indoors where you can better control the temperature.
Stay comfortable and have your best summer possible.
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