Saturday, July 29, 2006

Does AD/HD Get Worse in the Heat or Is Your Brain Just Melting Like Everybody Else's?

You may be having a hard time this summer because of the heat, but is it making your mental condition worse? Are you taking the necessary steps to prevent your noodle from getting fried?

There is a very good reason I haven't been productive this week: My brain has melted. I'm certain of it. After two weeks of scorching 100°F plus weather my brain reached a liquid state and leaked out while I slept. That may have happened earlier this week, but without a brain I wasn't able to notice. I realize we have a swamp cooler to make short work of summer temperatures, but with this heat wave my swamp cooler is more like a swamp warmer - all the odor without that messy cold air stuff.

Of course, Utah hasn't cornered the market on heat waves this Summer. It's only a toasty 95°F outside my doorstep today. I hear Phoenix hit 114°F. That made me wonder what other people with neurological problems were experiencing. Do people with ADHD, for example, function worse in the heat?

To be sure, most people start to slow down when the temp makes boiling eggs on sidewalks possible, and certainly many are having a hard time of it this summer as the death toll rises. But what I'm referring to is different than simple discomfort. I have found my brain begins to short around 80°F. At 90°F it is a struggle to stay focused step by step, nevermind room to room. At 100°F I'm positively torpid like a puddle of gelatinous goo. I tend to vocal tic more often as well. This meltdown at high temperatures seems to run in my family. My brother with epilepsy avoids excessive heat because his mind begins to shut down. My mother has increased Post Polio Syndrome muscle pain during heat waves. Maybe other people with varying conditions also experienced increased trouble when things get hot, so I scrounged around the internet to see what could be found.

A quick search on Google for "ADHD heat melts my brain" turned up some fascinating results. Apparently there is a large market for ADHD cooking recipes. Usually, I don't think of sautéd onions when contemplating AD/HD but who am I to criticize? Other searches yielded equally useless results so over to ADD Forums I went and discovered others experienced increased absentmindedness and an inability to mobilize themselves as the heat singed their brain. I was not alone. The heat clearly exacerbated whatever condition was present. And why not? If one's brain begins to broil there are bound to be difficulties.

My concern with this might be similar to yours. How are we supposed to get anything done when the sun is doing its best to smelt us down to our biological components? Well, the trick is to stay cool. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Actually, the trick to managing the heat is to first realize what affect heat has on your productivity and compensate for it. While neither my wife nor I enjoy weather above 85°F, I'm the one who turns into a slug while she still zips around unphased though uncomfortable. This means I need to bring along ice packs in the car, spray bottles filled with water, etc. Anything to keep me from overheating. I also keep jaunts out into the summer heat down to a minimum, or at least make sure I plan trips around air conditioned destinations. Once I overheat I require hours to return to normal and that must be avoided at all costs.

These tips aren't really any different than what other people need to do during heat waves. The difference is that my heat wave starts at 80°F. Your boiling point may start earlier or later. The precautions we need to follow to stay alive during heat waves can be implemented to stay mentally alive as well. Being mindful of your individual limitations doesn't mean you have to give up on life until the press starts clamoring about Global Cooling. Simply understand yourself so you can keep yourself working at optimum capacity. Then trips with the kids don't have to get canceled, you don't make stupid mistakes at work, and you retain enough energy to smile a little when the sun tries to sauté your lawn, or worse, fry your noodle.

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