Magpie

Exercising in Summer When You Are Heat Sensitive

Many of us with chronic conditions are in the unfortunate situation of needing exercise yet at the same time, we are heat sensitive (sensitive is an understatement in my view, but it is what it is). Exercise makes us hot – or at least warmer than normal, depending on the intensity of our routines. How can we get through summer and keep up our exercise regime? We need to keep pain and stiffness away!

For those of us not native to Australian heat, it may be even more challenging. Well before I got sick, way back in 1974, I arrived in Melbourne on a February day. 38 degrees Celsius. Up until that point in my life, 23 degrees was a warm day! I thought I’d landed in Hades! I had a girlfriend living in Adelaide at the time whom I visited. If my memory serves, over there it was 43 degrees. I remember lying on her kitchen tiles to try to keep cool.

Earlier today I saw the magpie above, pictured here keeping cool under the protection of the leaves, with beak open and wings lifted from his body to maximise heat loss. I missed that image, but was pleased to see him looking cooler.

Over the years I had somewhat acclimatised, until I got sick. For many of us, heat intolerance/sensitivity is entirely new, so how best to cope?

Ensure Your Gym is Properly Cooled

This gives you some flexibility with staying active. Today, I will be walking inside, not outside. Treadmills are not my preference, I much prefer walking outside, but I found even walking at 6 pm last night uncomfortable and we are nowhere near summer yet.

Allow yourself to cool down before you venture outside.

Swim

If you can, swimming is a great exercise and the environment is cool. Getting to and from the pool may not be so cool, but with good air con in the car and a close car park most of us should manage.

If you have never learnt to swim, think about lessons. In addition to the physical benefits, swimming has been shown to have mental health benefits, so important to those of us managing chronic illness.

You may need to invest in a rashie for adequate UV protection depending on the time of day you prefer to swim.

Hydrate!

I wrote Hydration Habits – Are You Drinking Enough? recently, so I refer you to that article for the detail. Make sure you hydrate before, during and after exercise.

Cool Your Skin During Exercise

I have lesions on my left arm, the result of medication-related photosensitivity, which become bright red when I exercise. I run my arm under cold water between sets. A wet towel on your face, chest or back can help. Some gyms have large fans facing the cardio equipment – turn them on.

Change Your Routine

In Victoria we are into daylight savings time. Use it to your advantage. The UV danger window has shifted an hour and the evenings are lighter. Check the UV ratings every day, work around it. If walking outside, walk later when it is cooler, or earlier if you are an early riser. Early is not an option for many with chronic conditions as our energy levels seem quite depleted most mornings.

Hydrotherapy Pool

If you have access to a hydrotherapy pool, this can be an alternative to strength workouts in the gym. I find the water temperature a little warm for me personally, but I still do exercises in it. A quick dip in the normal pool to cool off before the trip home is a sensible move, or a cool shower.

Wear Light, Loose Clothing

I’m a minimal clothing person in summer, I always have been. The concept of long-sleeve shirts, rashies in the pool, sunnies and hats was never my style. Now I own long-sleeved shirts of 50+ protection fabric. Of course, while this helps my photosensitivity, it doesn’t help my heat sensitivity as much! Learn to juggle the clothing style, time of exercise and type of exercise that best suits your personality. Why is your personality important? Because we are all more likely to do something we are enjoying. If we HAVE to wear a hat and we hate hats, we will be less likely to go for that walk. Better to change the time so we don’t need the hat.

Summary

It is getting warmer now, so now is the time to experiment and plan for the warmer times coming. Know what you will do on really hot days, so when they arrive you are prepared. Know what temperature is your definite “Don’t leave the house” temperature. What will you do those days, to keep yourself moving? Double your stretches, maybe. Use thera-bands. Do body-weight squats and push-ups at home. Leg lifts with ankle weights. There are options. These ankle weights of mine have 4 x 575 gram removable weights, so super adjustable for home use.

 

If you are in a pacing UP phase, the UP may need to be put on hold on really hot days – it just may not be sensible to have that level of exertion. That’s OK, just keep moving.

When all else fails – get a manicure! At least the salon will be cool.

Manicure

 

Spring has Sprung! Annual Sun Protection Warning!

Yes, folks, it is finally spring. Days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger. Time to revisit the need for sun protection, if you let your routines lapse in the colder months.

As I prepared to hit the gym today, I checked the UV rating for today. Yes, we need protection.

Despite the fact it is raining today, clouds are not protection. Start your good sun habits now so you’ll be on automatic pilot for the rest of summer.

Last year I wrote about the additional challenges those on medications may face – quite a few medications result in photosensitivity – we have to be extra vigilant with our protection. If you have recently started on new medications, I recommend you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about this topic.

I was speaking with someone recently who believed you could not get skin damage through car windows or glass. Yes, you may do, depending on the circumstances. Refer to this article on Skincancer.org for more details.

The Sun Smart website has a wealth of information to help you stay protected, including a reminder to check the use-by date of your sun cream.

One tip I learnt last year – you will find warnings on some sun protection brands re the risk of staining clothing. Trust me on this – those ones DO stain clothing! Because I wear sun protection all the time, not just at the beach, this is important. I now have two stained white tops I really liked. I can attest the Cancer Council brand did NOT stain my clothing, so I stick to that one these days!

Source: SunSmart.com.au

EXTRA Slip, Slop, Slap Needed!

While the Cancer Council reminds us ALL to ensure we have adequate protection from the sun, those of us with chronic conditions need to be extra, super duper, especially careful.

One of my drugs comes with this little warning sticker.

warning, photosensitive
Warning Label on prescription meds

Let me tell you, that word “excessive” can be very open to interpretation. For some of us, that can be a whole 10 minutes. While I don’t enjoy sharing bits of my body openly like this, in the interests of education, I am doing so here. This is a snapshot of one of my breasts, I hope suitably cropped to retain a health focus!

sun exposure

That was THREE weeks after the actual exposure. I finally went to the pharmacy and asked if they had a cream I could use.

Knowing what else I was on, the pharmacist, in a very firm voice said, “Will you just go to the doctor? Please?” I mumbled, grumbled and complained, but I went.

Doctor says, “I need to send you to a skin specialist.”

I reply, “NOOOOOOOOO! I see enough specialists already! Can’t you prescribe something?”

Anyway, the point is: SLIP, SLOP, SLAP. Extra!

Sometimes it is our meds, sometimes it is the conditions. Sometimes it is a combination. Check your meds, check the symptoms of your conditions.

Hyperthyroid has heat intolerance as a symptom.

 

hyperthyroid, heat intolerance
Source: http://www.thyroid.com.au/thyroid-disorders/graves-disease/

Here is just one paper on PubMed discussing sunlight interacting with drug medications.

The interaction of sunlight with drug medication leads to photosensitivity responses in susceptible patients, and has the potential to increase the incidence of skin cancer. Adverse photosensitivity responses to drugs occur predominantly as a phototoxic reaction which is more immediate than photoallergy, and can be reversed by withdrawal or substitution of the drug. The bias and inaccuracy of the reporting procedure for these adverse reactions is a consequence of the difficulty in distinguishing between sunburn and a mild drug photosensitivity reaction, together with the patient being able to control the incidence by taking protective action. The drug classes that currently are eliciting a high level of adverse photosensitivity are the diuretic, antibacterial and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Not all people will be susceptible. Two people could take the exact same medication and one be photosensitive and the other not. The same with symptoms of conditions: not everyone has the same symptoms. Unless you know for sure, it pays to do your research BEFORE you get over exposed.

My arm has had a problem for some time, as it keeps getting exposed. I initially thought I had got sunburn on that arm driving around on a beautiful winter day in August with the roof down on my car. It just never would heal completely. I have noticed a vast improvement since I stopped one of my drugs recently. I am monitoring progress while still applying the treatment the dermatologist prescribed after I was diagnosed, via biopsy, with photosensitive eczema.

photosensitive

That photo is not particularly bad, but I think you can see the lesions. While sun exposure would cause it to flare up, it is/was also heat sensitive: when I work out at the gym, those areas would become bright red.

In Cancer Council ACT’s recent media release, Dr Andrew Miller, President, Australasian College of Dermatologists is quoted:

“Melanoma rates in Australians aged 40 and under are dropping and the children of today are our most SunSmart generation ever. However, it’s a real concern that sun protection behaviours overall don’t seem to be improving and that over 2.7 million Australians are putting themselves at risk of skin cancer by getting sunburnt on summer weekends.”

A media release from Cancer Council Victoria states:

New data from a Cancer Council Victoria survey shows more than a third of Victorians do not know the correct indicator of sunburn risk – putting themselves and their families at risk of sun damage and ultimately skin cancer.

The survey found 22% of Victorian adults aged 18-39 incorrectly selected temperature as the most useful measure to calculate sunburn risk for the day, while 8% thought cloud cover, wind conditions or humidity were sunburn indicators, and 9% didn’t know which measure to use.

Just 61% were able to correctly identify the sun protection times or UV level as the best measure to determine sunburn risk.

Of course, all of that is for normal people! We spoonies have to be extra careful.

I use a Cancer Council sun protection that is non-greasy.

sun screen, sun smart

I initially bought the spray, but I find the nozzle clogs up quite quickly, so I have moved to the cream in the tube. Yes, my cat was trying to get into the photo – she gets into EVERYTHING. The non-greasy is better for work, although that may be all in my mind.

I also have a special dermatologist recommended cream for my face.

sun smart

If I don’t use it, I can go from perfect skin to THIS horror over night. Go to bed perfectly fine, wake up horrified. I’ve learnt my lesson.

sun smart

Have I scared you yet? I hope so, that was the entire point!

Go check your meds and your condition symptoms and SLIP, SLOP, SLAP not just in summer, all the time. I got my arm damage in August.

Do I let any of that stop me being active? No. While my skin may react to sun exposure and heat, I can manage that with suitable sun protection. If I don’t keep moving, I can’t manage my pain. The moving, exercising wins! I will say my gym is in a basement, so I’m safe down there.

Here is proof of me swimming, for no other reason than one of my readers complained on Twitter I had used shots of the pool I go to, but he never saw proof of me actually IN the pool. @MlsMichael, here is your proof. From today. Before the thunderstorms.

Most Australians already know what “Slip, Slop, Slap” means, but for overseas readers:

  • Slip on a t-shirt
  • Slop on sun screen
  • Slap on a hat