Heatwave advice

How to cope with a heatwave if you have ME/CFS

Many parts of the UK are going to be experiencing very high heat levels over the next few days and it looks as though there could be another mini heat wave on the way next weekend. See BBC weather report

Firstly, some quick notes on temperature control and ME/CFS:

People with ME/CFS almost always have problems with temperature control

This is probably related to a problem with a tiny ’thermostat’ gland in the brain called the hypothalamus – which plays a key role in temperature regulation and control.

In addition, the autonomic nervous system, that controls the size of tiny blood vessels, becomes more sensitive to changes in temperature.

So having ME/CFS makes people more sensitive to both hot (including things like hot baths) and cold weather

Secondly, here are some top tips for dealing with hot weather – day and night

  1. Wear lightweight and loose fitting cotton clothes and a wide brimmed hat if you have to go outside
  2. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated – but avoid too many caffeine containing drinks
  3. Eat small regular meals
  4. Reduce activity levels and stay indoors between 10am and 6pm – unless you really need to go out
  5. Be aware of warning signs of heat related illness/heat stroke – nausea, headache, confusion, muscle cramps, feeling faint
  6. Close the curtains and windows during the day in any room you want to stay cool, especially those that face the sun
  7. Buy a fan for use if it’s really hot
  8. A lot of people with ME/CFS find cooling pillows and blankets helpful. These can be purchased on-line and one brand that appears to have a good reputation is OEX. But there may be high demand at the moment!
  9. Take a cold ‘hot water bottle’ to bed at night. Alternatively, cool socks in the fridge and put those on. Cooling your feet lowers the overall temperature of your skin and body
  10. Have a bowl of cold water and a flannel or a water spray handy to cool down with
  11. Be aware that some drugs (eg antidepressants, antihistamines) can also affect temperature control mechanisms

Dr Charles Shepherd,
Trustee and
Hon. Medical Adviser
to the ME Association.
Member of the 2018-2021 NICE Guideline Committee.
Member of the 2002 Independent Working Group on ME/CFS.

Dr Charles Shepherd
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