Heat Waves Can Exacerbate My Sickle Cell Symptoms
We recently experienced a heat wave here in the U.K., where temperatures climbed as high as 32 C (89.6 F).
Those of you from hotter parts of the world may look at this laugh, but the U.K. is not built for this type of heat. Homes, made of brick, are built to keep heat in. Also, only 0.5% of houses in the U.K. have air conditioning, compared with 87% of houses in the U.S.
Being stuck indoors on days when the temperature was so high made me realize that unlike most people with sickle cell disease, I prefer a colder climate.
Those of us with sickle cell disease need to be conscientious about the temperature of our environment because it directly affects our health. Extreme temperature changes can trigger a sickle cell crisis. Changing from a hot to a cold environment can constrict our blood vessels, which slows the flow of blood and causes sickled red blood cells to stick together.
Also, when it is too hot, we can feel even more lethargic than normal, and we become dehydrated quickly. Both of these can trigger a crisis if we are not careful.
While feeling hot is a great excuse to eat all the frozen treats in the house, I realized that I can manage my health more effectively when I am in a cooler environment rather than a hot one. I have lived in the U.K. my entire life, and I am aware of what I must do to stay as healthy as possible in such a climate.
I also realized that I find it easier to warm myself up when I am cold rather than cooling myself down when I am hot. When I feel too cold, I can easily reach for my hot water bottle, put on multiple layers of clothing, drink a hot drink, turn on the radiator, and go under the covers.
But if I feel too hot, I find that my options to cool down are limited, and they aren’t as effective. I can wear lighter clothes, open a window, turn on a fan, and drink a cold drink, but it takes a while for my body to cool down.
I did all of these things during the recent heat wave, but I felt so hot for such a long period that I started to think I had a fever. I had to find a thermometer to make sure my temperature was normal. My temperature was 36.8 C (98.2 F). Anything higher than 37 C (98.6 F) would have been a cause of concern, as it could have been a symptom of infection.
Thankfully, the temperature in the U.K. has started to cool down again, and I have been able to maintain an environment in my house that is optimal for my health.
What do you think? Are you able to manage your health better in a hot environment or a cold one? Please share in the comments below.
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