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Summer is in full swing and the thermometer is climbing. But while many people look forward to warmer temperatures, those with fibromyalgia (FM) may face the turning of the seasons with a sense of dread.
Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have heat sensitivities and find weather that is a bit colder more tolerable than hot. They should take extra precautions to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. A heat sensitive person often feels burning sensations, coming from within, all over their body.
That is believed to be because of autonomic nervous system dysfunction, or dysautonomia. The autonomic nervous system controls homeostasis, things like temperature regulation, blood pressure, heart rate, and physical responses to stress.
It is important to know the symptoms of heat stroke or dehydration so you can keep it from getting too bad. Some of them may be hard to distinguish from your common symptoms. They include:
- Nausea & vomiting
- Dark, possibly strong-smelling urine or inability to urinate
- Dry nose & mouth
The risk of death is very real in FM patients who is in the condition of heat stroke. A rapid heartbeat and a lack of sweating in a hot environment are also possible symptoms of heat stroke. If a person is incoherent and disoriented other than having these other symptoms, chances are quite strong that they already are in the midst of heat stroke, and quick action would be needed.
Heat Sensitivity in Fibromyalgia
Changing seasons can wreak havoc on the pain levels and the overall sense of wellness of people with fibromyalgia (FM). Temperature sensitivity is a common fibromyalgia symptom. Most people with FM report being quite sensitive to heat and/or cold.
Summer is in full swing, and the thermometer is climbing. But while many people look forward to warmer temperatures, those with FM may face the turning of the seasons with a sense of fear.
Some FM patients know they can expect a flare-up in fibromyalgia symptoms from high humidity and heat; others struggle during cold weather months. Whether you tend to be sensitive to cold or heat, temperature fluctuations can cause your disease to flare and your pain to increase.
Extreme heat and severe cold can register as painful experiences in those of us with lower pain thresholds. Perhaps that might explain why temperature sensitivity is so common among those of us who experience pain sensitivity.
Much of the research suggests abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system, which deals with homeostasis (your body’s ability to keep temperature and other factors within normal ranges) and our bodies’ reactions to different situations, including the “fight or flight” reaction.
Medical experts aren’t exactly sure why heat has such a damaging effect on some FM patients. Studies, however, have provided some clues.
FM patients become dehydrated easily, which can lead to pain, headaches, and fatigue.
Problems regulating body heat.
As body heat rises, FM patients suffer muscle pain and fevers, and are also more likely to have heat stroke and heat rashes. For example, sunlight shining through a car window onto your arm may cause burning pain in you. A lack of sleep often can make FM symptoms worse, and hot, warm nights make sleep difficult.
High humidity seems to worsen these symptoms, possibly because it makes the heat feel even more oppressive. Patients with a sensitivity to cold also report feeling worse in humid, clammy conditions.
Above all, humidity hits FM patients the hardest despite their normal tendencies. Researchers speculated that this is a result of the weather, in either hot or clammy condition, feeling more oppressed. Given the biometric reasons above, FM patients are also mostly vulnerable to weather fluctuations, along with drops and rises in the barometric pressure, since their bodies scramble to adjust.
Warm Weather Coping Strategies
Water is great for preventing dehydration, but once you are dehydrated, you need something that contains electrolytes like fruits and vegetables. When the weather gets warm, fibromyalgia patients with heat sensitivity need to pay close attention to their bodies. To protect themselves, they should.
Stay comfortable. Wear comfortable, light, loose-fitting clothing that breathes. Choose light colors instead of dark colors as dark colors absorb heat.
Stay cool. Use air conditioning to keep your home cool. Take cool baths or showers, or go for a swim. Using a cold pack can help you cool off and ease muscle pain. Place cool, damp cloths on your neck or have ice cubes dabbed on your wrists can ease the effects of the heat, too.
Dehydration can precede actual thirst. So be sure to drink lots of water, and do not wait until you are thirsty before you drink. Carry a water bottle around and sip from it often. But do not drink liquids that are overly cold, as they can cause cramping.
One thing you should be careful of when administering aid to someone suffering from heat stroke is giving them fluids.
A person with heat stroke may not be fully conscious, and you do not want to give them something to drink that could cause them to choke. If they can sip some water, try to encourage it, but do not give them anything hot or anything with caffeine or sugar. If the patient can tolerate water, then it is the best bet
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