Ten Tips to Help Autoimmune Patients Cope with Summer Heat


So far, this has been a three-bears summer where I live in Lafayette, swinging from a too-cold foggy chill to a too-hot swelter with the sun beating down and the temp pushing past 100 degrees. I’m missing those “just-right” days we usually count on at this time of year.

The chill is easy to manage with a fleece vest, warm socks and an extra cover over my Raynaud’s-cold feet at night. The “too-hot” days are tougher for me and many other autoimmune patients.

Some days, I need a rest from the effort of taking a shower–definitely not the way I want to live.

Here are my personal ten commandments for managing the heat.

  1. Keep the house cool. Sounds simple, but this often leads to bullheaded wrangling in my house – my husband and I both being Taurus types – but I fight to win on this point because it makes such a difference in the way I feel.
  2. Try to stay out of the sun. I do the best I can, but I refuse to be a shut-in.
  3. Avoid the afternoon heat. When possible, I do my running around in the cooler morning and evening hours.
  4. Dress to keep cool and protected from the sun. When I need to be outside on hot days I turn to wardrobe relief: my favorite wide brimmed hat, and comfy cool sandals. My JunglePants paper-light and breathable pants and long-or-three-quarter sleeve shirts keep the sun off while allowing me to stay cool.
  5. Wear sunscreen every day.  I double dose when it’s really sunny ­– basic sunscreen in my daily moisturizer plus a high SPF when I go outside.
  6. Drink loads of water. I carry plain water or electrolyte-spiked water with me everywhere. There’s a gallon jug in the refrigerator and insulated bottles everywhere else: in the car, in my home office, in the tote bag I carry to classes and meetings, by my bed at night. I play a game to see how much water I can drink.
  7. Autoimmunity is an inflammation-fuel illness. Avoiding sugar, transfats, alcohol and other foods that trigger inflammation is something we should be doing every day. But it’s especially important in the summer or during autoimmune “flares.” Try this link to a list of 10 best and worst foods for inflammation. No surprises here: Yes on fish and nuts and leafy greens; no on sugary, fatty carbs. I’ve spent half my life trying to love eating like a rabbit. Definitely a work in progress­–slow progress at that.
  8. Get plenty of rest. That’s the hardest commandment for me ‘cause I’m a natural night-owl who’s always hated naps. I’d much rather be doing. But when it’s hot, or when I’m flaring (often one and the same), I try to go to bed earlier, sleep later, and rest my aching joints when they need it.
  9. Ice. When I’m really flared with aching back and puffed-up fingers I often try an ice pack, always wrapped in a cloth or towel but never for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  10. Take a cool swim or shower. I don’t have a pool and I’ve never enjoyed swimming, but for those who do, a swim seems like a perfect cool down. For non-swimmers like me, a cool shower’s not a bad substitute.


Related post:  Autoimmune Disease: When Flares Get You Down 

How do you beat the summer heat?