Farm chores in high temperatures can exacerbate my EDS symptoms

I'm trying new things to manage my EDS during the summer heat

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Any morning I wake up and see a heat advisory on my phone’s weather app, I know I’m in for a fun day. Or more likely the opposite.

Last week, I was smack in the middle of an East Coast heat wave, and the temperatures were miserable. A heat index of 110 F basically feels like walking into a sauna. In my case, I have to exercise in it because I live on a farm.

When it’s like this, hay sticks to my sweaty skin and dust gets into my hair, so when I’m finished, I feel like I’ve gone for a salt-water swim followed by a roll in the dirt. Gross.

Despite that, I absolutely love farm life, even though it can be extra hard on me. Sometimes I pay for it when my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) worsens the soreness that comes from farm work. For me, though, the emotional and physical benefits of this labor of love far outweigh any physical pain the heat can cause. That said, while I physically tolerate the heat better than many people, I really don’t like it.

For one, heat makes my EDS fatigue worse. Heat can be draining whether you have EDS or not, but it can be tougher if you do. Given that it’s barely July and already this hot, I know I’m in for a long summer.

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What I Do to Manage Fatigue From Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Summer Heat

Managing summer heat and my EDS is an annual challenge, but this past week, I’ve tried a few new ways to handle it. Even though I tend to be pretty habitual, I’ve found that it’s important to try new things, as I may discover something that works better than what I’ve been doing — or I can simply give myself more options.

My dad saw a cooling neck wrap a few weeks ago and bought it for me to try. My mom loves the cooling neck gaiters that are like loose, circular scarves she wets and wears, but loose as they are, they always feel like they’re choking me in the summer heat. The one my dad found was a single strip of fabric, so I could just drape it around my shoulders, which I like better. It’s now going to be a summer staple for me.

Staying hydrated

Not surprisingly, with doing so much around the farm, I take care to stay hydrated. I drink a lot of water, but the heat last week was so intense that despite my best efforts, I didn’t do a great job. As a result, my muscles, especially my calves, became tight and sore.

I can still feel the effects of my dehydration even after addressing it. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the tightness remains after I solve the root problem, as that’s common for me with EDS, but it’s still frustrating. When I stopped at the store later that week, I got several flavors and brands of sports drinks to try. It’s easy to get bored with the same few flavors, so hopefully a variety will help encourage me to drink more.

When something like dehydration happens, I have to be careful. It can easily result in a downward spiral of soreness, which makes me extra tired, which in turn makes the soreness worse. If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself smack in the middle of a pain flare before I know it. A massage is the only thing that helps to loosen my muscles back to where they should be. In the meantime, staying hydrated and taking ibuprofen can help keep things in check.

It can take my body much longer than an EDS-free body to resolve problems, so I know I need to be extra careful taking care of myself, especially when the temperatures climb. Summer can be a lot of fun, but it also creates an extra level of work for me. While knowing what’s worked in the past is helpful, it’s also important that I try new things so I don’t miss out on ways I could be doing better.

Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


V Arvon avatar

V Arvon

The cooling wrap is a great idea. For hydration LMNT electrolyte packets were recommended for me, they come in multiple flavors and don't have undesirable additives like sugar. Vitassium chewable tablets work faster but do have sugar, I keep one on me just in case.


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