Living with POTS during the summer
POTS in the summer is rough. I remember I was just starting to get some of my symptoms under control, and then the heat hit, and everything was thrown into wack.
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the summers are dry and very hot. The average high for a summer day here is about 95 degrees. Luckily, during the late evenings/early mornings, the temperature drops to a very pleasant, cool 60 degrees.
This is my first summer having POTS, and it has definitely been a huge challenge. I’ve been more dizzy, fainted more, and had worse tachycardia….even with the help of beta blockers, extra fluids, and extra salt. I’ve also found that my headaches have become more frequent and more severe.
Heat Intolerance with POTS
After doing some research, I found that heat intolerance is very common in POTS patients. This is because the heat causes your blood vessels to open up more, which for POTS patients, makes the blood pool at their feet much more quickly. We don’t receive enough blood to our brains, which causes more extreme light-headedness and fainting.
The humidity is also known to worsen symptoms in the summer. I visited California, Texas, and Florida this summer, and I could definitely feel the humidity worsen my light-headedness. I remember each time I walked out the door I almost immediately felt faint because of the intense heat and humidity.
How to control symptoms in the summer?
Though I have yet to find a perfect solution for how to help POTS symptoms in the heat, I have a few tips that have helped me.
#1: Try to stay out of the heat
The more I stay out of the heat, the better I feel. Just yesterday, I was sitting down outside painting a table, and I felt light-headed while sitting down. I knew that was because of the heat, and I can definitely feel a difference when I’m outside.
#2: Park your car in the shade/use a windshield shade
Every day when I leave work, I get into a car that has been baking in the sun all day. It’s probably 120+ degrees in there. That can’t be good for someone with POTS. Once the air conditioning gets going, I feel a little bit better, but it’s best to prevent getting in such a hot car.
I found out my work has some underground parking that is always cool, which is great for me. Other ways I’ve been able to keep my car cool is by parking in the shade and using my car windshield sun shade. In the long run, this may not help much, but I believe these little things we do to feel better definitely add up.
#3: Go swimming if possible
Swimming has been a great thing for me, because I feel my symptoms much less when I am in the water and off of my feet.
During my trips to the beach in California and Florida this summer, I tried to stay in the water as much as possible. The water cooled me down and also helped me to stay off of my feet. I will warn you--be careful when getting out of the water. When I was in California, I fainted getting out of the ocean. Luckily, my boyfriend was there to catch me!
What I usually do now is make sure someone is with me, and that I get out slowly. When I’m swimming in the pool, I will sit on the edge for a while to make sure I’m not standing up too quickly. That has helped me a lot.
#4: Stay hydrated
This is so important. In the summer, it very easy to become dehydrated, especially if you have POTS. Staying hydrated helps keep our blood volume levels up, and that makes us feel better. I definitely can realize if I haven’t been drinking enough. I try to always keep a large water bottle with me, no matter where I go, and that seems to help.
My doctor from the Mayo Clinic also told me that if you drink 16oz of cold water very fast that can help relieve lightheadedness quickly. This is a good trick to use if you’re having a particularly bad day.
#5: Increase your salt intake
I know this is something that we as POTS patients hear all the time, but that’s because it works. I upped my salt intake by almost double over the summer, and that did help me feel a bit better. Currently, I am taking salt pills (1g) 3x daily, as well as adding as much salt as possible to the regular food I’m eating.
Salt helps to increase blood volume, which will in turn help decrease blood pooling in your lower extremities. This has been known to reduce dizziness and low blood pressure.
#6: Keep yourself as cool as possible
If you have to be in the heat, make sure to stay as cool as possible. My mom bought me a cooling towel called a “Frog Tog” and that goes around your neck to help you stay cool in the intense heat. I also make sure I have some cold water and that I try to find shade as much as possible. When it’s very hot, I tend to get more dizzy, so I try to stay seated as much as possible to make sure I don’t faint.
#7: Avoid going outside during the hottest hours of the day
This summer I have tried to make sure that I stay out of the heat during the hottest hours of the day. The mornings and evenings here in Utah are pretty cool, and so I try to go outside during those times if possible (if I have yard work or am exercising).
#8: Make sure others know about your situation
When your friends and family know about your situation, they are able to help you if needed. I don’t love talking about my condition, so I’m not the best at this. But if those around you know about you condition and what to do if you faint/don’t feel well, that can definitely be of benefit to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
After a long summer of feeling dizzy, I am definitely looking forward to the fall and winter (here's an post I wrote on POTS in the winter: https://gonetopots.com/pots-in-the-winter/).
In the future if possible, I’d love to spend my summers in somewhere cooler, like Alaska, Washington, or even Australia.
Though these tips I mentioned have helped me some, I’d love to hear some ideas from others about how they’ve been able to tolerate the summer heat. Please feel free to comment your thoughts below.
Below are some other articles I found about POTS and heat intolerance for your reference. Thanks for reading, and happy (almost) fall!