My 5 summer symptoms of Cushing’s, and the ways I cope
Tips to fight dry skin, dizzy spells, and the hard-to-avoid seasonal overheating
I’m not sure if this experience is universal, but my Cushing’s disease symptoms change with the weather. Maybe I’m not so alone in that; Georgetown University Medical System, for instance, lists heat and cold intolerance among possible symptoms.
I’ve learned over the years to manage most of these issues, but the summer months can be the worst. I’m not sure which symptoms are side effects of my treatment plan and which are from Cushing’s itself, but they’re all quite dramatic when the temperature starts rising.
My worst summer symptom these past few years has been dry skin. I don’t mean that I’m a little drier than before; I’m talking a full-on-crocodile, shedding-my-skin scenario. If my poor skin touches the outdoors, it leaps off my body in a fit of hot, red rage.
To combat this, I bought a tiny metal shelf that sits at my front door, and I’ve filled it with moisturizing sunscreen. I cover my body in it every day, and it keeps my dry skin from escalating into a sunburn (which I’m more prone to get because of how thin my skin is). I also bought an exfoliating brush, and I use that every other day. Lastly, I use heavy moisturizers.
Dizzy spells are the next symptom to eat away at me. They’re a little harder to combat because they come on suddenly.
In general, I try to avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day, but that’s not always possible. To compensate, I keep my mobility aids close and rely on them when I feel even an ounce of dizziness.
I also have a frozen head wrap. Any eye mask or other wrap that you can put in your freezer should work here. I put that on when I feel dizzy in my apartment, and then I lie down. Usually, with a bit of time, it helps.
I’m nauseous year-round, but particularly in summer, when New York City has a distinct smell of hot garbage. As I’ve become extremely sensitive to smells over the years, this odor is the death of me. I’ve found myself throwing up all across New York City, leaving my ever-so-disgusting mark.
I combat this with something I call a smelling stick, something my mom found while shopping; it’s a tiny stick that smells wonderful. But you don’t have to use a stick. Anything that smells good can help here: lavender bags, a candle, some soap.
I also keep alcohol wipes in my bag at all times. An MRI technician told me that the wipes can combat nausea, and I haven’t left my house without one since.
Overheating is tough to avoid, especially in these hotter months. Of course, having air conditioning or a fan is helpful if you’re indoors, but my tip if you’re going out is to take reusable ice cubes, which are water covered in plastic. They’re fantastic because I can just throw them into my bag without a mess. They’re also easy to transport because they’re so small, and since they have that plastic wrapping, they’re not so cold that it hurts. (You probably know what I mean.)
Generally, I put one on my forehead, wrists, or the back of my neck when I feel that I’m overheating. It helps at least temporarily until I can get somewhere cooler.
Cushing’s disease in general leads to more sweating, and in the summer I sometimes feel like I’m swimming in it. I can’t always avoid that fate, but I’ve learned a few tricks.
For one, I put on my deodorant the night before as opposed to in the morning. I’ve learned that our bodies react differently to the antiperspirant chemicals at night, and we absorb them better then, too. Thus, night use can help cut down on day sweating.
I also wear loose clothing and lighter colors, which help keep my body at a cooler temperature.
Cushing’s disease can be a lot to handle, but it’s often manageable. Keep cool, and try to enjoy the summer!
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