The weather is heating up here in Charleston and as you know some precautions should be made if you are undergoing Chemotherapy. Patients undergoing treatment are more susceptible to heat related problems than the average person. Make every effort to stay cool, and understand that the combination of sunlight, heat, and medications may cause photo sensitivity reactions to occur quickly, possibly more quickly than you expect. Being aware of your medications and having a plan in place in case of emergency, whether you are at home or are traveling, can make the warm weather most enjoyable. Here are some tips for battling the Beach and Pool Season or just the Summer in general.

Sun Exposure

Planning ahead can make your time outdoors safer and more enjoyable:

  • Try to limit your sun exposure between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, which is when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply it often, especially after sweating or swimming. It is also a good idea to ask a doctor to recommend a sunscreen for sensitive skin if your skin is irritated anywhere from radiation therapy.
  • Dress for sun protection, and bring portable shade such as an umbrella if possible.
  • Protect your head. If you’ve lost your hair due to chemo, wear a hat.
  • If you have undergone radiation, know the boundaries of where you were exposed. This area will be the most sensitive to sunburn, especially during the first year after treatment.
  • Keep any surgical scars covered from the sun. “Surgical scars may be especially sensitive to sun damage,” says Dr. Naughton. If you can’t keep them covered by clothes (or a hat), apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, generously and frequently.

Summer and Entertaining

Picnics, pools, and parties are abundant during warmer weather. Picnics and other outdoor parties can be a great chance to visit with friends and family, but your body’s reaction to treatments or medications may present challenges when you are not at your own home.If you are going to an outdoor party or picnic:


  • Call ahead to make sure that shade is available, or bring your own, and stay in the shade as much as possible. Take breaks from the heat and seek air conditioning, especially if you start to feel overheated.
  • Wear lighter colors and fabrics and loosely fitting clothing.
  • Heat can cause or worsen hot flashes. Drink cold beverages and also seek shade and indoors when possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid too much alcohol. Try drinking sports drinks like Gatorade or even Pedialyte to replenish your body’s electrolytes.
  • Cancer patients may have changes in taste, as well as changes in digestion. Be prepared for problems such as acid reflux, nausea, and diarrhea by talking to your doctor about what you can do before the party.
  • Be careful of picnic fare. Make sure food is well-chilled and not left out in the heat.
  • After swimming in a pool, wash off the chlorine right away so that it doesn’t dry and irritate your skin.
  • If you have a low white blood cell count, you should avoid public pools and beaches to reduce your risk for infection from water-borne bacteria.


Heat can worsen cancer-related fatigue. Here are several strategies to combat fatigue in warm weather:


  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Keep fluids on-hand.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Listen to your body. Rest if you feel tired.
  • Try to stay in an air-conditioned space or limit the amount of time you are exposed to heat.
  • Dress appropriately in lightweight clothing.
  • If you have any symptoms such as muscle cramps, trouble breathing, confusion, fever, seizures, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical care immediately.
  • Exercise can help combat fatigue, but recognize your limits. You may not be up to the same strength and activity level that you were used to. Swimming is a good source of light exercise that will keep you cool, help reduce strain on joints, and soothe aching muscles.

**Information from the NCCN Resource Website** You can visit there for more detail. Please let us know here at Charleston Hematology Oncology Associates if you have more questions about sun exposure and chemotherapy.