You've likely heard the term "inflammation" brought up time and again, in your doctor's office and beyond—and for good reason. This is an incredibly common bodily reaction that happens to everyone and involves the immune system responding to a foreign irritant of some kind. It might be a physical injury, like a cut or a scrape, or an invisible invader, like a virus. The body's response to these triggers can leave certain areas swollen, warm, red, or painful—and might even lead to loss of function, says Magdalena Cadet, M.D., a rheumatologist at NYU Langone in New York City.
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Some people notice that they experience an increase in inflammation symptoms—namely pain, redness, swelling, and heat sensitivity—during the summer months. There are a number of explanations for this. First, higher environmental temperatures coupled with humidity can directly increase both warmth and swelling in bodily tissues, notes Stuart D. Kaplan, M.D., chief of rheumatology at Mount Sinai South Nassau. What's more, when the barometric pressure is lower—as it is with warm wet weather—the pressure inside the joints and other tissues rises, he notes. "This makes the joints throb and hurt more," Dr. Kaplan says. "Warm weather can also lead to dehydration, which can exacerbate pain and other symptoms."
The good news? There are many ways to combat inflammation in the summertime, or at least make symptoms more manageable. First and foremost, Dr. Kaplan urges his patients to stay well-hydrated. "Drink plenty of water, and also make sure to get some electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) from fruit juice or sports drinks," he says. This will help flush out toxins from your body, which can reduce inflammation, he adds. Dr. Kaplan also recommends staying out of the sun as much as possible; sit in the shade or use a beach umbrella, since UV rays can make this condition worse and even lead to photosensitivity. When exposed to the sun in any capacity, it's always essential to wear sunblock that protects you from both UVA and UVB ray types, note our experts.
Wearing loose-fitting clothes made from natural fibers, like cotton or linen, is another must-do, adds Dr. Kaplan. These textiles allow your skin to breathe and prevent you from becoming overheated. Lastly, it's a wise idea to expose your body to cooler temperatures, which you can do by swimming in a non-heated pool or applying ice on a joint or muscle area that may have local inflammation. Dr. Cadet even recommends carrying a small fan with you throughout the day or even splashing water on your face periodically.