Neurology Insights

Heat Intolerance & Neurological Conditions

Happy Summer from Neurology Office!

As the temperature rises, we encourage all our patients to do a quick check-in.

If you find yourself highly sensitive to the summer heat, it just may be a sign of heat intolerance linked to your neurological condition.

What is Heat Intolerance?

Heat intolerance (also referred to as heat hypersensitivity) is the body’s response to an inability to regulate changing temperatures effectively. Common physiological responses to this breakdown in regulation include swelling, dizziness, headache, nausea, lightheadedness, confusion, and more.

Symptoms of Heat Hypersensitivity

How can you tell if you are experiencing regular summer heat or neurologic-related heat intolerance? Start by reviewing the following symptoms:

  • Feeling excessively hot in moderately warm temperatures
  • Spells of exhaustion and fatigue during summer months
  • Nausea, dizziness, and confusion when outside for extended periods of time
  • Sweating in extremes (i.e., excessive sweating or not enough at all)
  • Feelings of confusion coupled with a rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle cramping and weakness


While heat intolerance is not a condition on its own, it is often a byproduct of underlying medical conditions.

Common Neurological Conditions that Experience Heat Intolerance

Individuals who live with underlying health conditions may notice that as temperatures increase, symptoms simultaneously begin to worsen. This increase is due to a variety of risk factors, including the condition itself, patient age, medications, and more.

When it comes to neurological conditions, there is a direct connection between temperature, barometric pressure, and the nervous system. The following list includes common neurological conditions affected by hotter temperatures:

Diabetes (peripheral neuropathy)

In diabetic patients, heat intolerance can be due to several factors, including dehydration and complications of the nerves and blood vessels. These complications may also contribute to ineffective sweat glands and affect how the body processes insulin. 

MS (Multiple Sclerosis)

Close to 80% of MS patients experience heat intolerance. This intolerance is due to MS-related nerve and spinal cord damage hindering the body’s inability to respond to nerve signals efficiently. The nerves do not conduct electricity very well under higher temperatures. That is why it is essential for MS patients to maintain a cool core temperature.

Chronic Migraine

In chronic migraine patients, temperature increases are a common trigger. This is due to various factors, including general sensitivity to thermal stimulation and increased dehydration during the summer months.

Parkinson’s Disease

Nearly 65% of Parkinson’s disease patients experience thermos-dysregulation. This can occur in both heated and cold temperatures due to underlying complications within the autonomic nervous system.  

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Heat intolerance acts as an autoimmune response in patients living with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This response is connected to nerve inflammation and nerve sensitivity unique to the condition.


Regulation of body temperature is a primary pain point for Fibromyalgia patients. Nervous system sensitivity makes it challenging for the body to regulate an increased temperature effectively, making hotter temperatures unbearable.


Medications such as antidepressants, certain antibiotics, and antihistamines affect the body’s ability to regulate its core temperature. Also, patients taking diuretics (water pills) can notice an increase in symptoms with hotter weather (mostly due to aggravation of dehydration). In some cases, patients who have consumed medication experience increased sweat production at common room temperatures (which can worsen in increasingly warm environments).

The Risks of Heat Intolerance

If you are prone to heat intolerance due to your medical condition, paying particular attention to symptoms when they occur is advised. The complications of heat intolerance include the following:

Heat Exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion can present in the form of throbbing headaches, dizziness, nausea, and an overall feeling of being unwell.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke is when heat levels in the body have exceeded the body’s capacity to regulate temperature, leading to a loss of consciousness.

In the event of a heat stroke medical emergency, call 911 right away.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a symptom that occurs in the skin where blisters and pimples arise due to heat.

Heat-induced Edema:

Edema is when proper circulation is impaired, and the pooling of fluids occurs, leading to swelling (in hands and feet).

Tips for Managing Heat Sensitivity

If you or a loved one is struggling with heat intolerance, it is important to seek a medical evaluation right away. Your medical team will be able to assess your unique situation, rule out additional risks and create a treatment plan for you.

We also advise our patients to take precautionary measures at home to promote improved outcomes.

Here are some ways you can avoid symptoms of heat intolerance this summer:

Stay Hydrated

Maintaining proper hydration is a key component in all neurological conditions. Hydration can mean the difference between mild heat symptoms and serious consequences. For more on summer hydration, visit our article here:  Experience Relief Through Hydration

Avoid Peak Summer Hours

Organize your schedule to perform outdoor activities in the early morning or evening during the summer months to avoid heat overexposure and stay indoors during peak hours.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

In the event of heat hypersensitivity, staying as hydrated as possible is essential. Consuming substances that lead to dehydration, like alcohol and coffee, can lead to worsened symptoms and outcomes.

Combat with Cold

Colder showers and cooler temperatures are all ways one can improve symptoms at home. In the summer months, applying cold dishrags to the back of the neck and wrists can be particularly helpful in regulating body temperature. Using a cool mister can also be very effective. Also, you can purchase a number of inexpensive devices online, such as a portable fan, a neck cooling device, and special cloths that can be placed in the refrigerator to be worn later as a local cooling device.

Dr. Joseph Kandel portrait

Joseph Kandel, MD

Board Certified Neurologist
Serving Naples and Fort Myers, FL

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