Summer Health Risks for Chronic Conditions

Heat and sun exposure can aggravate symptoms of certain chronic conditions. One reason may be that your body isn’t able to cool itself efficiently, even when you’re being careful.

Normal, everyday activities like going to the market can aggravate chronic symptoms when it’s hot outside. This can happen for many reasons. Perhaps your body can’t quickly respond and adapt to temperature changes, or perhaps you take a maintenance medication that intensifies the unfavorable effects of heat.

Chronic conditions that get worse in the summer

Here are a few conditions that can make you more vulnerable to heat as well as ways to stay safe and healthy this summer:

  • Respiratory illnesses
    When you have a chronic respiratory illness, your body has to work overtime to stay cool, particularly when the heat and humidity are high. This can put a strain on your lungs, make it more difficult to breathe and lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. Dehydration causes the mucus in your lungs to thicken and become sticky, making breathing more difficult. As a result, anyone with chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer have a higher risk of feeling worse symptoms in summer. To protect your lungs and better manage chronic symptoms, avoid the outdoors during the hottest time of day (typically between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and stay in the shade as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to plan outdoor activities in the morning or evening hours when the air is cooler.
  • Rosacea
    Rosacea is a chronic skin disorder that causes redness and bumps in the complexion, particularly around the nose and cheeks. Sun and humidity can irritate rosacea and lead to flare-ups. A rosacea flare-up makes your face feel like it’s burning, stinging or itching. It may also cause swelling. Heat is another enemy of rosacea, as it can dehydrate the skin and make your chronic symptoms even worse. To ease the effects of high humidity, try to keep the face cool and clean. Be sure to avoid abrasive cleansers as they can further irritate the skin.
  • Autoimmune conditions
    Autoimmune conditions (like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis) are well-known for joint pain and fatigue. If you have a chronic autoimmune disease, it’s important to stay out of direct sunlight because UV rays can cause flare-ups. Autoimmune flares are the sudden and severe onset of symptoms like redness, heat, pain, or swelling. They can be triggered by different factors like stress and sunlight. Dehydration can also worsen joint pain because it reduces the amount of fluid (lubricant) located between the joints. Stay indoors (whenever possible) when the sun is brightest and always protect your skin with long sleeves, pants and broad-spectrum, 30-SPF sunscreen made from zinc or titanium dioxide.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
    MS is a disease that affects the nervous system. It can cause symptoms like vision problems, weakness, pain and confusion. Summer can be a difficult time of year for people with MS because symptoms often worsen when your body gets overheated or dehydrated. Even a small increase in body temperature can aggravate symptoms, so it’s important to stay cool. Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing and have a plan to head indoors if symptoms get worse.

If you struggle with a chronic condition, it’s important to listen to your body, especially in the hot summer months when you are more susceptible to issues such as dehydration. Dehydration can make your symptoms significantly worse. To avoid the risk of increased discomfort and complications, visit Oxford Urgent Care at the first sign of trouble. We can help you get rehydrated fast with IV fluid hydration, so you can feel better fast. We welcome walk-in appointments 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.