Five Summertime Tips for Staying Healthy
Summertime is like a relieving deep breath for a lot of people in the cystic fibrosis community. During this season, the increased risk of seasonal flu and colds dies away and the days are filled with fun in the sun and favorite pastimes. It’s a nice break from the anxiety and high alert of winter. Some people with cystic fibrosis even feel healthier during the summer and coin this their “good season”—I know I do.
Although summer can feel easy-going, there are still ways to be mindful of your health with cystic fibrosis. Here are my five tips for staying healthy and happy during this season.
Managing cystic fibrosis in summer
Dehydration is a real concern with CF because more salt is lost in our sweat than normal due to the defective protein channel in the cell.1 Dehydration can cause headaches, muscle cramps, lethargy, and low heart rate. In addition, dehydration can cause mucus to become even sticker, making it harder to breathe as well as increasing the risk of constipation.2
Since water requirements are unique to every individual, talk to your doctor about recommendations for fluid intake. If water isn’t your thing, try adding water-rich fruits and veggies into your diet such as:
- Watermelon - 92% water content3
- Cucumbers - 95% water content4
- Strawberries - 91% water content5
- Celery - 95% water content6
- Tomatoes - 94% water content7
Pack salty snacks
On a hot summer day, the weather can absolutely be a major energy sucker--continuous sweating with cystic fibrosis only also adds to the dilemma. The high loss of salt in our sweat can lead to some serious issues like increased heart rate, fatigue, weakness and low blood pressure from electrolyte imbalance.8 Snacking on salty snacks such as pretzels, nuts, chips, or sports drinks with ½ teaspoon of salt mixed in can help replenish the salt loss and perk you back up.
Use sun protection
Apart from the obvious benefits, sun protection with CF is vital because of all the medications we take. In my experience, the sneaky summer sun has a way of catching up to you. There’s been a lot of times I see a sunburn in the mirror and wonder what I missed. Then it hits me: antibiotics.
Certain antibiotics can cause photosensitivity, or sensitivity to the UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun. Antibiotics like Bactrim, Cipro, and doxycycline which are commonly used to treat CF exacerbations can lead to a nasty sunburn.9 Cover up, lather up, and enjoy!
Practice safe swimming
Swimming in the summer is one of life’s simple pleasures. However, everyone with CF has their own level of comfort when it comes to safe swimming locations due to the risk of infection. Some people with CF avoid public swimming pools all together and stick to privately-owned pools with trusted cleaning processes. Some swim in well-maintained pools but never lakes or ponds where harmful bacteria such Pseudomonas Aeruginosa can grow.10
Personally, I avoid all hot tubs or jacuzzis (also a hot spot for Pseudomonas a.) and most lakes, but enjoy swimming in chlorinated pools and oceans. I have become more strict as I have gotten older and more protective over my health. Staying healthy in the summer sometimes means avoiding activities that you determine aren’t worth the risk to your cystic fibrosis, and that’s ok!
Take an AC break
Unfortunately, the summer heat can make breathing more difficult, especially in humid climates or if you suffer from seasonal allergies. The best way to improve breathing, other than taking your prescribed medications and keeping up with airway clearance, is to take a break from the outdoors.
Central air removes the moisture and pollen from the air, making it less of a strain. If you don’t have central air in your home, consider buying a smaller unit for a bedroom or a particular area of the home. That way you know you have a retreat to take a break from the heat throughout the day and relax in the AC for easier breathing.
What are your cystic fibrosis summer tips?
In what ways do you enjoy summer? How do you stay healthy? Let us know in the comments below!
How has CF impacted your decision to become a parent?