Summer in Queensland also means end of year parties, Christmas festivities and New Year celebrations. Let’s face it, to say that there is a lot going on is an understatement!
As a person living with cystic fibrosis, there is no reason that you can’t participate in all the wonderful events that come with the season, and with preparation, you can also maintain your clinical adherence and overall wellness.
Drinking plenty of fluids is always necessary for people living with cystic fibrosis but becomes especially important during the hot, humid months of summer. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. You should aim to drink at least eight glasses (two litres) throughout the day. A great way to know if you are drinking enough is to fill a two-litre container and monitor your fluid intake as you empty the container to meet your daily goal.
Caffeinated drinks don’t count. Caffeinated beverages like iced or hot tea and coffee or caffeinated sodas do not count towards your goal. In fact, they are diuretics and cause you to go to the bathroom more frequently and therefore lose fluid! Another easy way to check if you are drinking enough is to check the colour of your urine. If it is dark yellow, then you need to drink more fluids. The goal is to maintain urine colour of a light yellow.
Drink before, during, and after you exercise. If you are exercising in the warm weather, you will need to drink even more fluid than usual. When exercising, it is recommended that you drink one to two glasses 20-30 minutes
Babies need extra fluids, too. Infants can get dehydrated more quickly than young children, so make sure to keep them hydrated and dressed in clothing that will keep them cool. Ask your care team if supplements are needed for your infant during the summer months.
Individuals with cystic fibrosis lose more salt (sodium chloride) in their sweat than those without cystic fibrosis. In the summer months and during exercise, when we sweat more, people living with cystic fibrosis are at increased risk of becoming hyponatremic which means to have a low sodium level in your blood.
Know the signs. Symptoms of hyponatremia include feeling nauseated, vomiting, headache, muscle weakness and cramping. It is important to pay attention to your salt intake and how you feel.
Eat more salt. To add salt to your diet you can increase the use of table salt to your food, eat some salty snacks, and read food labels to choose those with a higher salt content. If you are exercising, you may want to add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to your sports drinks.
Upping your salt intake will also help with your fluid intake. “How?” you might ask. Extra salt will tell your brain that you are thirsty, and you will want to drink more. If you have a low level of salt in your system, you will not have that trigger and that may also lead you to become dehydrated.
Check the temperature. Some medications will need to be refrigerated while others are fine at room temperature. If you are not sure about the temperature sensitivity of each medication, check with your pharmacist.
Keep medications cool while on the go. You might need to keep medication in a small cooler with an ice pack if you are going to be out and about during the day. Enzymes need to be kept at room temperature. That means you should not keep them in your car or in direct sunlight. Doing so will cause them to be less effective.
Factor in more than sun cream. Wear a hat and sometimes a light weight long sleeve shirt is far more suitable than a tank top! Be sure to check with your pharmacist if any of your medications can cause photosensitivity as this will make you heat sensitive, and your skin will be more susceptible to burning.
You may find that you need to take things at a slower pace and avoid overexerting yourself. You might also like to opt for indoor might also like to opt for indoor exercise as opposed to an outdoor activity. Consider remaining inside during the hottest hours of the day with your feet up (hopefully), windows open and a fan flowing to keep yourself cool and as comfortable as possible. Monitor your food intake – hot weather often means a loss in appetite – so you may need plenty of snacks to hand or supplement drinks to ensure you are maintaining energy levels.
More than cystic fibrosis
Don’t forget to carefully monitor other cystic fibrosis related complications like asthma and cystic fibrosis related diabetes. The heat can affect blood sugars so you may need to monitor yourself regularly and keep hydrated and keep insulin out of direct sunlight and some handy snacks available to help keep my levels stable.
Enjoy your summer but don’t take a break from paying attention to your fluids, salt, and proper medication storage!
And finally…what summertime tips do you have to share?