When it’s hot, hot, hot how to stay cool on chemo

Published: 20 Aug 2019

If you live in the northern hemisphere, it’s summertime - and depending on where you are, it can be extremely toasty. 

Typically, Austin and Las Vegas will reach around 40ᵒC, New York and Los Angeles 28ᵒC and 32ᵒC in Orlando. Europe too can be hot with the thermometer regularly reaching 30ᵒC in Madrid, Rome and Athens.  If you’re on vacation the heat may be welcome – but if you’re undergoing chemo treatment, the heat and humidity can become too much to bear.


Here are some top tips to cool down, as the temperature outside hots up

Wear natural breathable fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate

Cotton is one of the best fabrics for hot weather. ... it’s soft, lightweight, breathable, allowing heat to escape from the body and to stay cool. 

Linen is also great in hot weather - people have been wearing it for centuries, and for good reason. The natural fiber and light weave give maximum breathability. 

Bamboo is also a great choice. It makes you feel cooler in hot weather and warmer when it's cold! 

There are also some manmade fibers that are highly absorbent and breathable. Tencel is a relatively new fiber and combines the luxury and comfort of natural fibers with the ease and practicality of man-made fibers. It’s a great option for staying cool and happy in the heat. 

Modal is a semi-synthetic cellulose fiber and is 50% more absorbent than cotton - excellent at wicking moisture away from the body and keeping you feeling fresh and cool.

Stay in the shade  

During and after cancer treatment, your skin may be far more sensitive to the sun and should be protected from direct sunlight. Too much sun can be unsafe during and after treatment. Intense sun exposure can weaken the immune system even more than cancer treatment already has. 

Limit your time in the sun and try to stay out of it completely between ten o’clock in the morning and four o’clock in the afternoon - this is when the sun's rays are the most intense.   

Use a sunscreen with an SPF of thirty or higher and reapply it often while you are outside, especially if sweating or after being in the water.  But take care – chemo toxins can mix with your sunscreen and have been known to cause skin reactions.  Ask your doctor to recommend a sunscreen for sensitive skin and always patch test before applying all over your body.

For more information about using sunscreens on chemo read our blog:  Are you making these common sunscreen mistakes? 

Wear light tightly woven fabrics, especially for those areas of skin that have been treated with radiation therapy or that have a scar from surgery. 

Finally, if you’ve had hair loss, be sure to protect your ears and head with a hat.

Keep your head cool 

It’s important to keep a cool head, because if you’re head overheats so too will the rest of your body.  

If you’ve lost your hair because of chemo and are wearing a wig, as the weather heats up you may find your head feels hot and itchy.  Consider wearing a cotton or silk headscarf or turban – and save the wig for less steamy days or evenings out.  

If you are wearing a wig - consider a lightweight, open-cap construction wig in the summer months.  They’re much cooler because they allow air in and heat to escape. 

If you’re cold capping with a portable system such as Penguin Cold Caps, keep a cap in your home freezer and pop one on when you need to cool down.

Make sure you wash your hair and scalp with a sensitive paraben-free shampoo – sweat may contain chemo drugs, which you will want to wash away as soon as possible.  Read our blog: Parabens, Chemo and Cold Capping for more tips on how to look after your hair.

Go for a swim 

A great way to keep your body temperature down is to get in the water - but before you do check with your doctor. As well as cooling you down, swimming is one of the safest and most comfortable ways to stay physically active and fit. Of course, you don’t have to swim - you can just take a dip.     But whether you are in the sea or a pool – make sure you shower off chemicals and salt afterward because chemo makes your skin far more sensitive than normal.

Keep your pulse points cool

There are plenty of pulse points around the feet and ankles, so dunking your feet into an ice bucket can help take your temperature down.  Similarly, with your wrists – lower your entire body temperature by soaking them in cold water. Or hold a cold flannel or ice pack to your temples or the back of your neck.

Stay hydrated 

Dehydration can make some of the side effects of cancer treatment worse. Hot days can put you more risk as your body loses water through sweating. Watch out for the signs of dehydration; thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, cramped muscles, dizziness, headaches, fever, very dark urine, a dried tongue, or trouble producing tears.

Make sure you keep on sipping fluids throughout the day, so you never feel thirsty. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water every day and be sure to drink even more when you are outside in the heat. Frozen fluids, such as ice pops or ice chips, can help satisfy your thirst and cool down the body. Also, stay away from beverages with alcohol or caffeine, and eat vegetables and fruits with a high fluid content. 

For more information read our blog: 5 reasons to drink water during chemo

Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Both of these will make you more dehydrated so avoid, especially as the thermometer starts to rise.  It may be tempting to enjoy a beer or a glass of wine in the sunshine, but you may soon be wishing you hadn’t!  Tea, coffee, soda, and alcohol are “diuretics.” This means they induce the production of urine, which on hot days can cause dehydration and loss of not only body fluids but also electrolytes such as sodium.

Check out our blog: Fruit and veg smoothies for chemo patients for some healthy tasty smoothie recipe ideas.

Keep your home cool

If you’re lucky enough to have air-conditioning that’s great – if not here are a few things you can do to keep your home as cool as possible:

Getting to sleep in the heat

The cooler you can make the room you sleep in, the more soundly you’ll sleep.  

Join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group and share hare your top tips to staying cool with thousands of members.

Penguin Cold Cap Therapy

Penguin Cold Caps are the original inventors of modern cold cap therapy; the drug-free, non-invasive and most successful method for reducing chemotherapy-induced hair loss. 

To find out more visit