Since becoming ill, showers have been a huge challenge for me. They are absolutely exhausting!! On the days I shower, I am unable to do much else for the rest of the day. As soon as I’ve had a shower I have to have a very long lie down straight after as I can barely move I am so weak, dizzy and very out of breath. My mum has to dry my hair for me as I simply don’t have the energy/spoons to do it. Of course, I can’t avoid showering, so I have to put myself through this ordeal knowing the consequences, several times a week. I recently found out why I feel so terrible after having a shower. There are several reasons …
1. The heat itself Those with conditions such as lyme Disease, M.E, chronic fatigue syndrome and more, often suffer from some sort of orthostatic intolerance such as POTS (Postural Tachycardia Syndrome) or have low blood pressure. For these people standing up causes their heart to pound and their blood pressure to drop, leaving them dizzy, nauseous and fatigued. Heat makes this even worse. When in a hot shower the heart has to work overtime to stop them from passing out and to keep them standing up. Showers are therefore like running a marathon. I have an orthostatic intolerance and have a very fast heart rate (100 BPM resting, 130-140 BPM standing and 170 BPM from slowly walking up stairs) which is exacerbated further when in the heat. No wonder I am so tired after a hot shower!!
2. Physical exertion For those with Lyme, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc, even small amounts of exertion can be too much. A shower takes lots more energy than we realise…you’re standing the whole time, doing a fair amount of bending, stretching and reaching, and vigorously lathering up your head and body.
3. Temperature Sensitivity (allyodynia) While the hot water may feel good, it can cause a very strange reaction for those who suffer from allodynia (a symptom of lyme, Fibromyalgia etc). Allodynia is pain generally on the skin, caused by something that wouldn’t normally cause pain (such as clothing, small amounts of pressure and heat). So in the case of showering – heat causes the pain. I’ve had allyodynia for a number of years – when I’m in the sun or in a hot shower or bath, my legs tremble, I get sharp shooting and stabbing pains and I get muscle twitches. This is due to over-reactive nerves. Not a nice experience.
Saving energy is always my top priority, so I have had to learn how to have a shower without zapping all of my energy completely. So here are some tips for fellow sufferers:
Use a shower stool A waterproof shower stool or chair to go inside the shower is an essential item if you are unable to stand long enough to have a shower. The stool or chair will provide support, stability, and safety, allowing you to enjoy the shower as best you can. I hired mine from The Red Cross. It’s helped so much as currently I am unable to stand for short periods at the moment due to exhaustion.
Have a cool shower
I know they aren’t pleasant, especially in winter…but they really do reduce allodynia. I can’t tolerate any higher than 30 degrees in my shower as my legs will scream otherwise. In addition reducing the heat will have a lesser impact on your symptoms.
Have your big fluffy dressing gown at the ready for when you get out of the shower and have things to keep you occupied around your bed for when you’re having your big rest such as iPod, book, some snacks, laptop ready with your favourite series on (mine is Episodes at the moment :)).
Leave your hair to dry naturally or get someone else do dry it
Hair dryers are heavy which isn’t ideal for tired, achey, weak arms…which are even more tired, achey and weak after having had a shower. So my advice is to avoid using them if at all possible of you’re on your own. Or I get my Mum to do it for me if she is around, get someone else to do its. I end up looking like a deer caught in headlights when my mum does it but she gets the job done
If I can plan ahead and use the tips above it does improve how I manage a shower and how much I can function afterwards. It doesn’t always guarantee I will feel great, but it does greatly improve my odds. I hope that this post was useful to you and that the tips can help some of you who are experiencing issues with showering as well. Good luck!