Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

June 19, 2014
· Amber Bauer, ASCO staff

I have to confess—my air conditioning has been working full time this week. The DC heat and humidity has finally gotten the better of me. And with the official start of summer just days away, there are months of high temperatures in our future. According to the 2014 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, my mother’s go-to source for this type of information, we can expect this summer to be “exceptionally hot” across most of North America, with “oppressive humidity” for those of us living on the east coast.

Unfortunately for people receiving cancer treatment this summer, the hot weather can trigger side effects like hot flashes for some men and women and make wigs feel uncomfortable and itchy. Here are some ideas to help you keep your cool through the “dog days” that await us.

  • Wear breathable fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate. If you have lost your hair because of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, think about wearing a cotton head scarf or turban rather than a wig.
  • If you decide to wear a wig, you may want to cut your hair short or shave your head while your hair is falling out to keep cool and for a better wig fit. Also, consider wearing a synthetic wig during the hot summer months. Lightweight, synthetic wigs are cooler to wear than natural wigs because their open-cap construction allows air in and heat to escape.
  • Drink cold water, low-sugar juices, or sports drinks or eat popsicles or frozen juice pops to quench your thirst and cool down. Keep iced beverages on hand throughout the day. However, make sure to avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, as they may trigger hot flashes and promote dehydration.
  • Lower the thermostat, if possible. Turn on a ceiling fan or use a hand-held, battery-operated fan. A less expensive alternative is to use a manual fan.
  • Take a cool shower before bed to manage hot flashes during hot summer nights. Wear lightweight clothing to bed.
  • Consider swimming if your doctor has said it’s okay to exercise. The water will keep your temperature down throughout your workout. For women who have had a breast removed, it can be difficult to find a swimsuit that works well with a breast form or prosthesis. Several bathing suit brands are designed for women with breast cancer and have higher necklines and armholes to cover scars and/or built-in bra pockets to secure breast forms. As an alternative to custom swimsuits, you may be able to add a breast form bra pocket to the inside of a regular bathing suit.

For more steps you can take to stay healthy and comfortable during warmer weather, listen to Cancer.Net’s Cancer in the Summer Months podcast.