Coping with Heat, Humidity and Chronic Pain

Coping with Heat, Humidity and Chronic Pain

By Ellen Smith.

Life is difficult enough coping with medical issues that include chronic pain. For many of us, the  often excessive temperatures of the summer season makes the day even more of a struggle to get through. Some of you are lucky enough to live in central air, but many of us don’t have that luxury and would certainly be better off if we did. So, we need to be careful to keep ourselves safe during these trying days of oppressive heat and humidity.

These are some suggestions to consider which might serve to relieve some of the physical stress caused by excessive heat:

  • Keep well hydrated. Many do not drink enough water. Getting dehydrated in this heat may cause normal bodily functions to deteriorate. I recently had severe pain from leg cramps due to getting dehydrated from a stomach bug. Do all you can to avoid this. So drink up and remember how important water is.
  • If muscle cramps become an issue, try including magnesium in your routine. You can even rub a liquid magnesium on the cramped legs or feet for relief.
  • If you are like me, living with low blood pressure, you need to be very careful to keep your salt intake up. You do not want to be passing out, especially during this humidity and heat.
  • Your electrolytes can get off easily so one thing that was suggested to me to keep myself more stable is to include a potassium gluconate tablet daily. This has helped to keep my body chemicals in balance when exposed to long stretches of heat and humidity, I have turned to even taking a second pill in the afternoon.
  • For some with low BP, extra salt on your food is just not enough to keep you safe. When my cardiologist included Midodrine tablets that I take three times a day, I stopped passing out. So, if you are also on daily medication for your BP whether it is low or elevated issues, be sure to not miss those doses. There are many other medications to help keep your BP elevated.
  • Exercising is wonderful but be careful during the heat. The safest time is during the coolest time of the day, generally first thing in the morning.
  • Chances are you are going to feel more dragging than ever when the heat hits. Make a deal with yourself to let things go and try to find quiet things to do to keep that body temperature down. Some of us possess that drive to be productive and thus we do not feel satisfied not accomplishing things we normally do but this is not the time to push yourself.
  • Be careful to not have meals in large quantities and also avoid very heavy, rich ingredients. It takes energy for food to be digested and you need to reserve that energy! Think about small, maybe more frequent meals. And if the heat takes your appetite away, be careful not to go without so perhaps focus on creating small but nutritious meals. For those with compromised health, good food is critical for strength and healing.
  • Many of us do not live with central air so you have to find a way to keep cool and safe. We resort to fans in the house and an air conditioner in the bedroom and family room so there are places to escape the heat and be safe.The last heat wave we had, the inside of our house, for days, reached 86 degrees. That temperature would have had me passing out if I had not had these rooms to find relief.
  • Remember to limit your exposure to the extreme heat when traveling. Be sure to bring water in the car to keep hydrated. You should also always keep extra water in your car in case of emergencies. Keeping your cell phone charged and in you possession when traveling is also necessary to maintain your safety.

Remember, before we know it, we will be fondly recalling these warm days when the snow falls again, but until then, we need to safely get through the summer heat. If you have suggestions to add, it would be great if you added them for others below in the comments!

May life be kind to you,

Ellen Lenox Smith

Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

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Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

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Lisa Hess

For me, and I do have central air conditioning, but for the past 22 years of living in chronic pain, heat is not the issue. Humidity is the issue, same as I suffer up to 48 hours before a rain storm and precipitation in the winter if a winter snow storm is coming. I don’t have to be outside to feel these barometric pressure marks to be in agonizing pain. I stay inside, but the pain persists. The only thing that the air conditioning does is try to keep the humidity from coming in from outside, but it does affect every door in the house too. So, I can go outside on a 90 degree day and if very low humidity I’m not too bad as I would be on a high humidity day when I don’t go outside. Barometric pressure comes into play with every storm both in the summer and winter. So, for me, inside or out, air conditioning or not, when it rains or doesn’t, when it snows or doesn’t, I can still predict the upcoming weather several days before better than any weather person on the radio or TV. I hate the heat but if it’s dry it is better, I don’t mind the cold (I live in the Northeastern part of the country), but it’s the barometric pressure and humidity that lives outside, that my body cannot sustain comfort from the inside of my home. When my husband retires, we have decided it is best for us to move west away from the humidity and weather barriers that make my life hell indoors as well as out here in the Northeast. Ten years can’t come fast enough for me at this point.


m.s. is a monster to live with. watch out for the heat.


I understand the “central air” being seen as a luxury if a person doesnt have it .. but the $400 – $500 to $600 monthly electric bill that goes with it, to keep the house at 79-80 degrees for 4-6 months, certainly is a huge challenge on a fixed income.

Fans help some.

Must stay hydrated and limit activities during the day.

Maureen M.

As Ellen writes…keeping hydrated is extremely helpful!

I would like to add other negative effects that come with heat and humidity.
I have Chronic Intractable Spine related Pain (4 failed spine surgeries), CFS and was recently diagnosed with Lupus.
I’ve yet to figure out the heat’s effect on me in relation to the Lupus BUT here’s how it effects my spine pain and CFS….
Appetite… I just don’t feel as hungry as I should in the Summer months. But, I have found the importance of at lease snacking through the day on healthy foods.

The heat causes our tissues to swell. If you have nerve damage related pain then the swollen tissues cause increased pressure on those nerves which increase your pain.
We tend to retain water during the hot months and that doesn’t help our already painful bodies either.
RE: FM or CFS… the heat/humidity can knock your socks off!! The AC can also have its’ negative effects. We do not regulate body temperature changes very well.
I live in Florida (moved here from the north 4 yrs ago). It took me 2 yrs to realize that it was the heat here (specifically during the several hot summer /fall months) that made me sicker.
And, my fatigue issues are off the charts during this time of year.

I have learned the hard way that when the humidity is high I just cannot be outdoors, not even for one minute. It instantly makes me feel faint and nauseous and I have to quickly make it back to bed.
The A/C, at times, gives me chills even though my body feels like I have a fever.
And at other times I just can’t cool my body down enough. I’m constantly readjusting the A/C according to my body temp.
I have found that even though I have A/C, if the humidity goes high it still greatly effects the temp and overall air inside the house. I have learned that the het has its’ effects but all around the ‘humidity’ is the huge culprit. When the humidity drops I instantly feel less negative symptoms.
I feel so much better in the winter time here. I have more energy and am more productive, which helps my emotional well being.

Not being able to be productive, because of increased negative symptoms, has its’ own issues.
Most of us have the need to be productive (even if its’ just doing a load of wash) in order to feel that we have accomplished something in our day, which in turn helps our self esteem.
But, that’s a whole other subject in relation to living with Chronic Illnesses. 🙂
Keep strong Warriors!