Heat Sensitivity and Fibromyalgia

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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.

Related Article: Handling Summer with Fibromyalgia

 

Effects of humidity on fibromyalgia

Humidity is the presence of water vapor in the air. So, it makes a lot of sense when they said it affects people with fibromyalgia because humidity makes it hard for the body to cool down, and it makes heavy the ambient. When it is low, patients report that they suffer more headaches, stiffness, widespread pain and flares.

People who have fibromyalgia are disturbed due to various natural factors. Some of the factors can be a disturbance in the weather conditions. Both too much of cold and too much of heat can trigger or increase the pain symptoms in fibromyalgia. Change in air pressure can be considered as one of the reason why people experience change in pain symptoms. It is not necessarily be the case that only people who have fibromyalgia will have problems when humidity level is high in the atmosphere.

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There are also people with other problems like asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems who find humidity difficult to manage. When absolute humidity in the air is low, people with fibromyalgia witness some of the problems like headache, fatigue, widespread pain in body parts, stiffness etc. In some rare cases, breathing difficulty is also seen. Read More Here.

Preventing Heat Problems

When you do get overheated, you’ll likely feel better if you can cool yourself off straightaway. People with FM be likely to to have a harder time of this than other people, as well.

You probably have to limit your activity levels anyway due to your illness, but take special care to limit how active you are in a warm environment. For those times when you cannot avoid the heat, keeping yourself cool takes some planning and preparation.

Some good ways include:

  • Take a cool bath or shower or avoid the hot ones.
  • Stay hydrated and stick to cold drinks and food.
  • Running cold water over your hands and/or splashing it on your face.
  • Using an umbrella for shade.
  • Wear soft, lightweight clothing that fits very loosely and stick to light colors as dark colors absorb heat.
  • Carrying a cooler with ice or ice packs and rub the cold pack on your arms, legs or neck wherever you feel the warmest to help cool yourself down.

Still, we can face a special problem when it comes to these cooling methods. If cold items are too cold for you to bear, they may cause a spike in pain or other symptoms.

When the weather gets warm, heat sensitive people with FM often experience symptom flare-ups. Research has found that people with FM exposed to hot temperatures report increases in: headaches, pain, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. They are also more likely to have heat rashes and heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Fluctuations in temperature can make your FM feel worse. It is important to plan ahead. You may have to spend most of your time indoors where you can better control the conditions.

 

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Reference: Warm Weather Survival By Adrienne Dellwo via VeryWel Health

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