Impact on hot weather and humidity on RA - causes flares and painful swollen joints

Summer Swelling

It’s July, and July in Minnesota (usually) means hot, muggy, humid, tropical, oppressive, and miserable weather. The miserable part is my own opinion, of course; some crazy people love living in a landlocked swamp for three months out of the year. You might be thinking: What? Hot and tropical in Minnesota? Doesn’t it snow there year round? Granted, we did have a blizzard at the end of April this year, however recently the thermometer has been soaring into the upper ’80s and ’90s with extremely high humidity.

My symptoms flare during humidity

Stepping outside now is like sticking your head into a hot oven (I imagine) and the AC everywhere is chugging away non-stop. If you don’t believe me, then feel free to ask my ankles–my whole body, really. It’s not happy. The heat and especially the humidity of summer take a large and painful toll each year, sending my RA into an out-of-control explosion of inflammation. Or, at least it feels that way. When your joints are already swollen from RA, summer-weather-swelling on top of it can be a lot to bear.

Funny enough, most people associate heat and warm weather with joints that feel good, not worse. Even if you have RA joints. Well, not my RA joints–they hate it. My weather fantasies consist of 65-70 degree days with sunshine and low/zero humidity. Or chilly autumn briskness when my ankles seem to magically shrink in the cool, dry air. Ahhh, this is so much better than feeling like a giant, bloated sweatball every day.

Remedies for the humid and hot weather

So what can I do about this sticky, swollen situation other than complaining about it until September? Move? Ha, I wish. Unfortunately, right now moving to a cooler and drier climate isn’t an option, so I have to sweat it out here (bad pun intended). I’m not sure if these are particularly good or healthy tips or not, but the following are some of the things I try to do to fight against summer RA flare-ups:

  1. Stay indoors in the delicious cool air conditioning!
  2. Use ice packs (buckets of ice?) for swollen feet and ankles (and anything else).
  3. “Water” your feet. If I’m home, letting ice-cold backyard hose water cool down my throbbing feet feels really great (maybe this is weird, but who cares).
  4. Don’t overdo it with lots of walking or activity if it’s hot and humid outside.
  5. Go swimming!
  6. ICE, ICE, ICE.
  7. Stick your head in the freezer for a while. Or your hand. Or anything.
  8. Did I mention ice? Sorry, I’m trying to come up with 10 things here.
  9. Drink a lot of water because…it’s good for you and helps everything.
  10. Drink a lot of margaritas until you don’t care that you have elephant ankles.

So these are my “tips” and I honestly partake in all of them. Well, don’t worry, I’m not drinking margaritas 24/7. I mix it up with rosé and cocktails, too. But on a more serious note, another thing that I try to do to help my RA behave a bit better during the summer is be more conscious and diligent about nutrition and what I’m eating. This means: more water, less sugar, less/no refined sugar/carbs, vegan diet (no animal products), whole/”clean” foods (no preservatives, chemicals, weird crap, etc.), less/no gluten. Sticking to this diet isn’t easy, of course, especially when you want to stuff your face with ice cream or guzzle 50 iced lattés on a steamy hot day. But! It helps. It helps me, anyway, and I have definitely seen real and noticeable changes regarding swelling and pain when I’m being strict about my diet. Also, there are a lot of really tasty vegan and vegetarian recipes for summertime meals and dishes–FRESH VEGETABLES! Take advantage of those, says me.

What are your tips or strategies for keeping the RA swelling and pain away during the summer? I’d love to hear them.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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