“Beat the heat” tips for cancer patients
With Virginia and other parts of the nation experiencing a summer heat wave, it is important for cancer patients to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Here are some tips to help keep yourself or your loved one cool this summer:
Limit sun exposure. Certain forms of chemotherapy can make patients more sensitive to the sun. Limit your sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is strongest.
Use sunscreen. Talk to your doctor about which brand/type to use if your skin is irritated from radiation therapy. Learn more about sunscreen.
Cover up. Wear protective clothing or use an umbrella. If you have lost your hair, wear a hat. Areas where you have received radiation or have surgical scars are the most sensitive to sunburn, so keep them covered.
Be careful of hot flashes. Your body’s reaction to treatment and medication can cause side effects like hot flashes. Try to take breaks from the heat, wear lighter colors/fabrics and, most importantly, stay hydrated.
Ask your doctor if you can swim. Patients who have low white cell counts from treatment, or have recently had surgery, may be more susceptible to water-borne bacteria and should avoid public pools and beaches to protect against infection. If you are okay to swim, make sure to wash off the chlorine right after you get out of the pool, as it may cause skin irritation.
Guard against fatigue. Heat can intensify cancer-related fatigue, so keep hydrated; eat small; frequent meals; rest; stay cool; dress appropriately; exercise, but know your limits; and seek medical care if you experience muscle cramps, trouble breathing, confusion, fever, seizures, nausea or vomiting.
Summer can be tough on cancer patients, but with a little planning and protection, you can still enjoy the season.