It’s that time of year again. Sunshine, cutoff shorts, car rides with the widows down, sitting on porch swings, bikinis at the water, fresh peaches and sweet iced tea. Okay, the last one is all year round for me. It’s summer and that means a bright upbeat climate and all those fun summer time activities (like hammock naps!) but with it comes the icky sticky summer heat. I always feel an uptake in my disease activity that coincides with the rising temperature. Mostly because where I live, unfortunately, it’s less of a dry heat and more humidity. I used to think it was all in my head that the weather would have such an effect on my pain levels, but science says it’s not! Hurrah for not being crazy! Humidity can increase inflammation in the body and cause anti-inflammatory medication to be less effective. It’s important to listen to your body and take the time you need to rest and recover, but here are a few other things you can do to beat the heat.
Stay indoors, AC and Dehumidifier
When weather temperatures get too extreme, limiting your time outdoors and giving yourself adequate breaks from the heat to recharge is the best way to prevent a flare. If you’re like me, and your home doesn’t have central air, try to set up at least one cool, quiet place you can go to lay down and rest. It doesn’t matter where as long as you’re able to shut out the heat and noise for a little while. I have a window AC in my office for when I’m working or doing yoga. I’ll also usually have one in my bedroom to help keep an even tempurature while I’m sleeping (which is also really important if you have asthma or breathing problems due to RD). Sometimes air conditioning isn’t always enough if the humidity level is really high. For those times, you could look into getting a dehumidifier.
Stay hydrated and eat healthy
Drink plenty of water (try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks) and eat healthy, nutrient dense foods to help you feel well and keep up your energy. Fresh raw fruits and vegetables make great snacks, especially in the heat!
A lot of the medications given for Rheumatoid Disease can have the side effect of increasing sun sensitivity, even for those of us who never had a problem with being out in the sun or burning before. Sunscreen is good for everyone (cause skin cancer is such great look amiright?) but it’s especially important to remember it if you’re experiencing increased sensitivity to the suns rays. Try to look for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (it’ll block 97% of UVB rays) and take breaks if needed to reduce the discomfort if you’re going to be outside for extended periods of time.
Exercise can be the last thing anyone wants to think about when they’re in pain, but staying active helps keep joints lubricated and build strength and flexibility, reducing pain. That do no good morning stiffness can actually happen after even just short periods of inactivity or limited movement. Taking frequent breaks to move around and stretch will help, but incorporating an exercise program like yoga or swimming into your daily routine can make a large difference.