Hypothyroidism is usually associated with an intolerance to cold, but the thyroid symptoms that are a part of Hashimoto’s can actually cause people to have trouble coping with any temperature extremes. That means you may be just as intolerant to summer’s heat as you are to winter’s chill.
Of course, on first glance it seems to make more sense that someone dealing with hypothyroidism would feel cold more acutely. The thyroid governs your metabolic rate and if it’s not working correctly, it can’t compensate for lower temperatures by using more energy to heat your body from within. It might even sound like having Hashimoto’s could be a blessing in hot weather since your body isn’t producing its own heat as efficiently.
But the fact is that your thyroid is essentially your body’s thermostat. A healthy thyroid will respond to the external changes in temperature by adjusting your basal metabolic rate and producing hormones that tell you blood vessels how much to dilate (to trap or allow heat to escape the body) so you stay comfortable and aren’t harmed by hot or cold weather.
When you have Hashimoto’s, chances are your thyroid is stressed and not working as it should even if you have your autoimmunity under control. So when you’re dealing with either extreme temperatures (a.k.a. typical summer weather in many places) or rapid temperature changes (like you experience when moving from your home’s air conditioned air into the hot yard before getting into an air conditioned car), your body can’t respond quickly or efficiently – and that leaves you more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. And thyroid medication? Can make heat intolerance worse.
The best way to protect yourself against heat exhaustion and heat stroke is to simply avoid the heat. This is important because your core temperature can get too high without you even realizing it until it reaches dangerous levels. If you can, stay indoors in the AC – especially on the hottest days and during the hottest parts of the day. And if you can’t (because you have kids or you don’t want to miss out on summer fun) take steps to protect yourself from overheating.
- Wear light, loose clothing and a hat that offers sun protection without heating you up.
- Make sure you plan outdoor activities in locations that have plenty of shade.
- Stay hydrated! Dehydration can literally kill in hot weather!
- Make sure others know that you may experience full-blown heat stroke without any warning.
- Rest when it’s hot – save higher impact activities for late afternoon and evenings.
A diagnosis of Hashimoto’s doesn’t have to mean spending the whole summer indoors. Just be careful, don’t over-exert yourself, and plan summer outings with heat stroke safety in mind.