Beating the Heat

For many of us with RA, heat and humidity are the bane of our existence, while some folks are much more sensitive to cold.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, some studies show a relationship between barometric pressure and arthritis pain, but OA not RA. A 2014 study of 222 patients with OA of the hip seemed to support that barometric pressure and relative humidity influence symptoms.

Another study showed that each 10-degree temperature drop was linked with an incremental increase in pain. And that rising barometric pressure also triggered pain in people with arthritis.

Weather and RA joint pain

Some people with arthritis say they feel worse before and during rain or snow.  Since barometric pressure drops preceding cold, rainy, snowy weather, some experts theorize that this drop in pressure may cause already inflamed tissue to expand, thus making the pain worse.

Elaine Husni, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, says weather doesn’t cause arthritis or make it worse. But it can temporarily cause it to hurt more. So although drier, warmer climates may decrease pain, it is important to remember is does not change the course of the disease.

Heat and humidity

For many of us high humidity and heat make our joints flare.  I have found this to be true the longer I have this disease.  Not only from a pain perspective, but also in terms of stiffness, fatigue and overall energy.  On a day when I am forced to endure high temperatures and high humidity, I am miserable, stiff, tired, have low energy and am grouchy to boot!

Managing heat & humidity with RA

The past few years, as high temperatures continue to set records, my misery level has risen too.  So I now have a list of things I can do to offset it. 

Avoid high temperatures

One is to simply avoid it, if at all possible.  That may mean simply staying in an air-conditioned place if you can till the temperature moderates. 

Wear appropriate clothes

Another is to wear appropriate clothes. For me, that means lightweight and light-colored, often sleeveless outfits.  Anything heavy or dark will make you a lot less comfortable.

Stay hydrated

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, keeps your body cooled down and your brain sharper.  This is the time of year when a cold glass of lemonade or iced tea tastes so good!  I drink a lot less coffee (unless iced) as hot drinks raise my temperature internally.

Various ways to stay cool

Take a tepid or cool bath or shower to cool down your entire body or take a swim in a cool pool.  Avoid things like hot tubs that will only heat up your body.  Applying cold packs to joints that are “hot” or stiff can also bring some relief.  Simply taking a cool cloth and applying it to the neck at the base of your head, can drop your core temperature.

Stay away from direct sunlight

Sit in shade, not the sun!  This is not just for heat relief but also because the sun is not good for our skin, especially those of us who take medications that increase our sensitivity to the harmful effects of too much sun exposure.  The fact that it also means we feel the heat more is just one more reason to be careful in the sun.

These are just a few tips for coping with summer heat.  I am sure you have some too!  If you are prudent and wise you can enjoy these wonderful summer days without making your joints unhappy and that is what we all wish for!

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