The Sweaty Nurse's Remedy List: Part 2

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing the “Dog Days of Summer” which Wikipedia explains “are the hot, sultry days of summer...historically the period following the heliacal (sun-related) rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” Sounds like an awful time, doesn’t it? Not if we know how to keep our cool and enjoy these last days of heat before we begin complaining about cold and snow again, amiright?

As the heat and humidity persist, many of us have lost all tolerance for poly-blend scrubs and running our butts off for half the day. Sadly, quitting a job from May to October just isn’t realistic for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere (don’t worry, this heat is on the way to you Southern Hemisphere-ers). That in mind, let’s talk about some more ways all you fellow sweaty nurses can make it through these final hot weeks of the year. 

1. Eat small meals before and during shifts. This may be laughable since many floor nurses are lucky to get a lunch at all, but if you’re going to eat, try to keep it often and light. All the chemical reactions taking place during digestion and the increased blood flow to the intestines increases your core temperature by one or two degrees. 

I can only speak for myself, but when I’m doing my 5th full-bed-change-poop-cleanup in a hot, plastic isolation gown, a 2 degree temp decrease would be gladly welcomed. In addition to creating those dreaded food babies and carb comas, big meals are keeping your metabolism running hot.

2. Give your skin a spritz. I have had acne problems all my life, and they persist despite approaching 40 years old. I hate sweating for 3 12-hour shifts in a row and discovering on day 4 that you have the bacne of a 15 year-old boy. 

While baby and body wipes are always an option, I’d like to present you with Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing All Over Toner. I’ve been doing one or two mid-shift misting sessions when I can,  not only to keep my skin clear and breakout free, but to feel the evaporative cooling effect after I give myself a good spray-down. 

If you don’t need or want the herbal skin clearing properties, maybe just a good old water splash on the neck and wrists, or a spritz of water from a bottle will help put out your fire. 

3. This is a 2-in-1 Tip: Caffeine bad. Water good. Much like digestion, caffeine raises your core temperature. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause increased heart rate and blood flow to the skin. While many people consume caffeine often enough that they claim to have no negative side effects from it, it’s important to know your body and your limits. I encourage all you hot-blooded caffeine-lovers to try some coffee-free days and see if you feel any better. Caffeine isn’t your coolest friend, so keep away from the stuff. I recognize this may be unthinkable for some. You can just keep reading. No more anti-coffee talk from here out.

Conversely, water is a wonderful natural coolant, as we see in everything from machine engines to kids at the pool. When you don’t put coolant in your car, you can’t be surprised when it bursts into flames in traffic. Fill up your body’s coolant and avoid mid-shift flame bursts, real or figurative.

4. Revisit the spritz idea for a second.  Another misting sounds positively delightful, especially when it mentions using Caudalie Grape Water-6.7 oz after it’s been in the refrigerator. Gave myself goosebumps just thinking about it. *clicks ‘add to cart’*

5. Use your head. I’ve seen lots of nurses rocking awesome sweat-wicking headbands and the styles and fabrics keep diversifying. But let’s level-up from the sweat-wickers. This Mission Enduracool Lockdown Cooling Headband is a bit different, though not unlike other workout wearables. This one you wet down, wring out, and wear. As you wear this bad boy, the cooling occurs by evaporation. No drips and when you’re feeling yourself start to steam around the ears again, you just damped that baby back up for more cooling glory.

6. Don’t Ignore the Fans. This one may be too simple, but dammit if it doesn’t work for me most of the time.  If your patient has a fan in the room, just ask if you can point it at you while you work. I did this for a patient I had to straight cath for like 800mls every six hours - and it took a long time. Meanwhile, I’m in an isolation gown and the guy is just watching me sweat, unable to wipe off my face because my hands are all up in some dirty business. The fan in the room was pointed at the wall. After that, I just asked if i could point the fan on me. All the subsequent straight caths were a breeze, literally.

Most patients know we are working hard, and they can especially tell if you’ve got sweat beading up on your face while you put in their IV. Just say something like “Mr. S--, would you mind if I point that fan in the corner of the room on me while I do (insert task here)?”No one wants to be dripped on by their moist nurse, so most people aren’t going to protest much.  Obviously, if your patient is cold, they may not want the fan blowing on them... and you should be respectful of that as much as possible (while also protecting yourself from passing out in the heat). Keep them covered as much as possible and use your best judgement. If you’re in an isolation room, you may not want whatever air is in that room blowing directly at your face.

7. Cold feet aren’t always badIt’s no lie, nurses have ruined brand new gym shoes after wearing poly blend compression socks during a very busy shift on a hot unit. Myself included. When I got home, I threw away the socks and spent weeks trying to save the shoes before I gave up. Some foot stank just can’t be conquered. Odor eating insoles can only do so much. I stumbled over this product to try -  Carpe Antiperspirant Foot Lotion - and I’ll let you know how it goes.

8. Follow the Flashers. Not that kind of flasher. I mean all the ladies with hot flashes. I did an online search for menopausal symptom relief items, and even though I am not yet a premenopausal woman I bought and have been trying out this Poise Hot Flash Comfort Roll-On Cooling Gel.

The product information says this provides a cooling feeling up to ten minutes. I’ve only used it a couple times, by using the product’s metal roller to apply this cooling gel to the back of my neck or the inside of my wrists.  I do feel the cooling effects, but I’m not ready to render a verdict. I’d like to use it a few more shifts before I make up my mind. I may throw it in the fridge to amp up the cold.

9. Put it on Ice. I recently purchased this Blue Ice Wraptor Bandana and love it! It is a cloth neck-kerchief that’s mesh on one side and solid fabric on the other. It came with 6 ice pack inserts to keep in the freezer and trade out. I usually only need them at work during my first med pass and getting everyone ready for bed. My unit is pretty high acuity so this means a lot of lifting, turning, walking, running for bed alarms, etc.

I have worn this a number of ways depending on the situation and my clothing. I have worn it like a collar placed behind my neck and then I bring the tails down and wrap them around the front straps of my bra, inside my shirt. This looks less weird than wearing it tied around my neck Crock Dundee-style. For safety reasons I don't like wearing things around my neck that aggressive patients can grab and choke me with. With the bandana tails coiled around my bra’s shoulder straps, a solid yank and it’ll just come loose instead.

Based on the design, even as they warm, these frozen inserts don’t leak, drip or cause condensation on my shirt. And since there are so many, I can keep backups in the freezer nearby for a quick swap-out.

To test it’s maximum cooling capacity, I wore this bandana straight from the freezer on a 35-minute bike ride in 90 degree weather. It stayed cold for most of the ride, and was still mildly cold when I got home. In less intense outdoor temps, it stays icy longer.

10. Buy shoes that breathe. Get those light fabrics! (Sorry Dansko lovers) Go for the meshies if you work in an area where you’re not required to wear hard-toed shoes. I also will sometimes run into the locker room real fast and slip on a different pair of my work shoes. They feel nice because they’re not all hot. In extreme cases, I’ll put a small bag of ice in each shoe to make it really cold. Don’t laugh. This feels so good on tired swollen feet. If you’re too busy to do all that, if you have a second, slip your shoes off, stretch your toes, and air out - but be conscious of how close your feet are to other co-workers who may not be into your foot funk.

11. Ride the Wave. Many of you know I’m a sucker for a cool piece of technology - more so if it’s wearable. Embr wave is a little tech device you wear on your wrist to help control your temperature. It’s bigger than a normal smart watch, and is worn against the inner wrist which is very sensitive to temperature changes. When you’re feeling warm, you push a button on the Embr wave which acts to cool your inner wrist by a few degrees. Because of the nature of this skin and how your brain perceives the stimulus, it tricks you into thinking your body is also cooler (or warmer if you use the warming function).

I am fascinated by this device and I want to purchase it for my own. It is on the pricey side at a few hundred dollars, so I haven’t taken the bait yet. If I do, I’ll be sure to give a full review. If anyone at Embr is reading this, I’d love to test this out and review it, and I’m already thinking I’d love it and never leave home without it. #embrcallme

12. She needs the D. Vitamin D. Excessive sweating may be a sign of a Vitamin D deficiency. Check with your doctor or nurse practitioner. Try some supplements, especially if you don’t consume foods which are fortified, like dairy products. I’m not a prescriber, nutritionist, nor giving you medical advice, but the connection between low Vitamin D and hyperhidrosis is documented and may be worth exploration if nothing else is working.

13. Dude, I wasn’t going to add this, but the description for DUDE Body Powder got me, and so it’s the bonus item on this list. It’s designed for our male-identifying listeners/readers, but our other-gendered friends shouldn’t stop themselves if they want to try it.

Here’s the part of the description that won me over.

“Use Menthol Chill DUDE Powder daily after you shower to keep the ball pit smelling clean & fresh. It's 24-hour freshness for your boys.”

Ball pits or sans ball pits, I hope this list leaves you all with some ideas on how to be less sweaty and feeling more fresh while on your unit, being your badass nurse selves. If you’ve tried any of these products, share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I’m constantly on the lookout for new items so if it’s out there, I’ll find it.

If you missed the Sweaty Nurse Remedy List part 1, please check it out.

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