July 11, 2018
I recently came across the following quote “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou This is my new goal in life. Not to conform to be normal, but to be amazing and I hope to inspire you to be amazing too.

Autism And Heat Intolerance

So, we've hit summer here in the UK. We have the long days and the muggy hot weather. Little Mr (well, me too to be honest) is finding hard to get to sleep, not that he had the best sleeping pattern. However, when searching for a solution I found it's quite a common thing with 'Autism And Heat Intolerance'.

So, I thought I'd take a better look at the subject, see if I can get some info for myself and, of course, to share with all you too.

Autism And Heat Intolerance

So, in the past I've often read about children on the spectrum that won't, or at least reject, wearing a coat in the colder weather. This might be caused, from what I read, by the body's inability to regulate temperature - or even a sensory issue.

When it comes to warmer weather, it's often the same reason as to why some children have an intolerance to heat.

Children with autism (or even just if they have SPD) frequently have sensory difficulties or sensitivities - and part of those may be to warm temperatures. Some of the info I read put temperatures such as 70F and so on, but I don't believe you can put an exact temperature of above as each child is different.

I further read that those with SPD may struggle for their brains to regulate the temperature of their bodies in the environment.

For example...

For example, those children with such sensory difficulties may feel hot while others feel cold (one reason why some children won't wear a coat in colder months).

I also read that some individuals with Sensory temperature issues have trouble sweating to cool down (or the opposite they might sweat too much).

Does this info help me?

The thing is, this info may help me understand how little Mr is struggling in the head - he does have sensory difficulties along with his Autism. That said, a lot of this info helps me understand myself.

I've always had difficulties with heat. I don't feel the cold so much. I sweat an awful lot as soon as it gets warm - I can often look like I've been swimming - seriously. Nighttimes are when I can't sleep either and, well, lots of pillowcase washing.

The thing is, I know that little Mr is having difficulties potentially with the heat and the long days, but what can I do?

The plan...

So, the first thing I did was to buy some blackout blinds. We bought some travel blackout blinds called Blackout Buddy - Portable Blackout Blinds (that's an Amazon affiliate link if you want to take a look). These have worked great - they are a little big and I stuck some extra velcro to the parts that were oversized four our window.

They have really darkened the room - and have made it a little cooler as we leave them up in the day too.

With those in place our next challenge was to cool the room down and little Mr down. So, we started with having some nice short all in one bedtime suites. These are kind of like a lycra and almost look like a Lyotard. They work great in also stopping him pulling everything off too.

So this is cooling for clothes. The next thing we introduced was a fan. We did try a larger fan, though as he could get to it he kept messing around with it. So, I decided to try a different solution and went with a small, portable, battery operated camping fan (again, it's an Amazon affiliate link if you wanted to take a look).

This small fan has allowed me to put it just out of the way. It's not so powerful, so we will most likely look at something larger - but its a test of if it works or not.

So far, to date

So far, the blackout blinds seem to be working with reducing the light. Having a fan is helping a little (we could do with a larger unit but out of the way for him to grab) - we are really trying to get him down to a comfortable heat. I know a fan on really helps me 🙂

This is really a trial and error though. We understand that heat intolerance could be a reason he is not sleeping so well - not going to sleep easy and then waking up at times like 1am.

I don't really have the definitive answer yet - though I would say that if you're in the same situation of your little one not sleeping well - it could be they have a sensory issue with the heat and you may want to start trying some of these solutions yourself?

If you have any more solutions I, we can try, then please do leave them in a comment below. I would love to learn more and find out new ways to help cool things down for little Mr (and myself).

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I recently came across the following quote “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou This is my new goal in life. Not to conform to be normal, but to be amazing and I hope to inspire you to be amazing too.

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27 comments on “Autism And Heat Intolerance”

    1. Thanks. Yes it certainly seems to help, though little Mr discovered he can pull it off the velcro. Amazing how much darker and cooler room is tbough

    1. Yes, not too great with it being so hot. It's a balanced game at the moment as we're letting little Mr downstairs from time to time if too hot as cooler downstairs. But still looking for perfect combo 🙂

  1. So interesting that there is a link between autism and heat intolerance, but I guess I'm not surprised since it is sensory. Glad you have found some solutions to help. #DreamTeam

    1. Yes so true. Think its more to do with the sensory side so not sure if everyone with Autism would have same issues. Goes to show though how even the elements can cause issue

  2. We live in Australia and I’ve found my daughter really intolerant to hot weather but copes if we don’t make it obvious that it’s hot ( sounds weird but hey )
    She doesn’t tolerate the blinds down AT ALL so this had me thinking how I can shade her room . The hottest in the house . I put a big market umbrella outside her window and it’s worked wonderfully. It’s about (for us ) keeping our lovely occupied and diverted and not showing signs of the extreme heat ourselves as she feeds off me in particular. On Friday we are expecting 43celcius
    So wish us luck

  3. It's perfectly well related to his autism. I'm 30 years old, female and have heat intolerance and heat sensory issues in addition to high functioning autism. I know several others on spectrum that have almost identical issues with heat as myself. Starting early with blackout blinds and the other measures you are taking will save his sleep hygiene and prevent years of sleep deprivation! You are truly ahead of the curve as a parent figuring this out! Trust me I'm writing this as I lay here unable to sleep because my air conditioning is not producing cooled air at good rate tonight. P.S. the fan you need is a table fan it may due to put it up on a bookshelf against a wall facing the bed or hang it from the wall. If all else fails try a ceiling fan.

    1. Thank you for your lovely and insightful comment. I think every day is a big learning curve for us and all and certainly each day is helped by insightful comments such as yours.

      Thanks for commenting

  4. Heat, no just warmth is massive problem for me. I'm 53 with Asperger syndrome and have always hated heat, I thrive on frosty bitter days and yes I don't wear a coat or hat. Heat, noise and crowds are the three triggers for a meltdown with me, oh and using phones. In the past I've been treated like party pooper of the year just for being able to tolerate heat.

  5. My grandson is autistic and I have noticed too he has a huge sensitivity to heat & was hard to get to sleep, to stay asleep, etc. My daughter was dressing him in pajamas or fuzzy onesies when he was little. As he spent the night with me often I noticed if he fell asleep with pajamas on & covered as well with blankets - about 30 minutes or so after falling asleep he’d start violently scratching at his head like he was underwater and couldn’t breathe ‘& trying to swim to the surface for air, then it would turn into what seemed like having a nightmare & he’d wake up disoriented & crying to go home. I found letting him sleep in his underwear & a thin SOFT sleeveless slip over t-shirt worked wonders. Where I use a downs comforter to cover myself - he does better with a high Egyptian thread count sheet for his cover. I turn my central ac down to 71 when he stays the night, Use a fan which is also great for white noise which helps him to stay asleep & use black out curtains as well. 5 mg of melantonin about an hour before you want him asleep also helps him to fall & stay asleep all night. When he gets a good nights sleep - he has no melt downs the next day. Autistic children do so much better when they get their sleep! His pediatrician recommended the melantonin. It is a natural non habit forming sleep hormone which autistic children don’t produce enough of. You must give it to them as soon as you lay down though so he falls asleep within the hour. If you wait until 1 or 2 am to give it to them - it does the opposite effect & they stay awake all night. I wanted him asleep by 9 pm last night because it was a school night & he had to rise at 545 am so I gave him 5mg at 8pm. He was asleep at 845 pm & slept all night. I only had to call him once to get up & he awoke rested & ready for the day.

  6. Now we are facing the problem of him doing PE at school. His PE class meets at 130 pm and we live in Florida. It’s been HOT like 100 degrees but feels like 105. They’re outside in the sun playing ball and running so my grandson gets very overheated & he’s also clumsy & not the best at being athletic so he doesn’t do well In sports but is expected to participate. Coupled with being way overheated & the other Competitive kids hounding him to do better - he gets way overheated, upset & PE ends up being a melt down before it’s over and done with. Does anyone have any suggestions for this? I wanted to have his pediatrician send in a note explaining his over sensitivity to heat so he could possibly walk at PE instead of running but his mother wants him doing what the other kids do so I’m at a loss.

  7. Hi Sean, great piece. My son is 6 and is asd/spd/ocd/adhd/hfa/verbal. And for us here in S.A Johannesburg summer is an absolute killer. We had a massive meltdown today due to him being over stimulated, hot and simply tired.

    Heat is definitely a trigger, i think im going to try the fan idea. Thank you so very much for sharing.

    Take care

  8. Would love cited studies linked to your articles on the topic... for example.. for this articles:
    Peer reviewed scientific cited studies about autistic children and temperature regulation

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. I do understand where you are coming from, although this article was something from my point of view and not really anything scientific. It is really about me understanding why my son has some issues in the hot weather and the plan we used to get through that. It's sharing so that others may look at and think, yes we could see how that helps.

      That said, I may do something in the future and look for scientific data on why's and where's - but that would be a totally different artical.

  9. I'm 64 years old. And I've found this article very interesting and helpful.
    I hate and dread the summer. I feel much safer in the winter, because, the cold,I fell more invisible and I'm more comfortable people can't see me . It's heavier at night , also Iike being wrapped in clothes and darkness.
    I know someone who works with young adults on the spectrum , and they're like me and they love to go out at night in the woods makes me feel safer as well As being cooler in the summer
    . They like me love swimming and they like me go under the water , it's so quiet and huggingly heavy or cuddly.
    Daylight is much shorter and less people around making noice , I keep my home very dark all the time and freezing cold in the winter.

  10. So, as an autistic adult, I can confirm heat intolerance is very uncomfortable and British Summers are awfull for it since it seems to be in the same realm as the dislike of feeling sweaty and it at least for me is more about the 'muggy' sensation than the heat itself, heat is fine, humid is not.

    As such holidays to places that are hot but dry are probably on the table, although convincing children of the difference initially may prove a challenge!

  11. My whole life, I've been extremely sensitive to heat. Not just warm weather, but also food and drink temperatures, and even overheating from physical activity. I'm 39 now, and just a few months ago, I was officially diagnosed with ASD. Before that, I had never even considered autism, and I've been going through life not knowing why I overheat and get sick so easily. I've been to so many doctors over the years, had so many tests done, and not a single clue.

    Back in late 2020, a YouTube video about autism in adults was in my suggested viewing list, and I thought that was odd, since I've never watched any video on ASD, or any kind of mental condition. Well, being curious and always looking to learn something, I watched the video, and, well, I had an enlightening moment. So much of what was discussed was so familiar to me, I HAD to do more research. In many of the YT videos on ASD and Asperger's, there were people like me commenting about how the videos helped them realize why they were the way they were. But one thing I started noticing was comments about het intolerance. Several videos, across several channels, all from different users, have comments about heat intolerance, and that's when it hit me. Never in my life have I heard of anyone else having a similar condition to, but suddenly, in the Autism community, I wasn't alone! Now that I had a connection, I started searching the web for ASD+heat intolerance related articles, and this page was one of the top results. The internet has confirmed for me that the conditions are linked, so I went for an evaluation, and was officially diagnosed February 2021. I finally understand why I am the way I am. It is such a relief, having an answer after all these years, but I still struggle with heat intolerance, and being an independent adult, there doesn't seem to be any options to help me with it. I've just had to deal with the condition, which has made me sick countless times, and I've even lost several jobs because of it, not to mention all of the career opportunities I've had to miss because I knew I'd never be able able to handle it.

    But I wanted to thank you, Sean. You definitely helped me in my journey of learning more about myself and my life!

  12. I have ASD and heat is also a massive problem for me - it makes all my sensory issues/sensitivities so much worse which leads to overwhelm/anxiety and also makes it almost impossible to sleep properly. Summer is difficult with the hot weather but winter can be too if I’m inside near radiators at full blast. It’s really good you are helping your child and making sure there is a cold place for them to be and keeping the blinds closed in the day is a good idea - will try that more I think 🙂

  13. I struggle a LOT with sensory issues in the heat. I’m a ‘never cold, always too warm and sweating’ autistic 😂
    My rec for you, if your sweating is bothering you enough, is that you can actually get medication to tone down the sweating. My sweating led to even worse sensory stuff for me in the heat to the point where I could barely do anything and kept having shut-downs.

  14. Autistic senior here. My thermoregulation has been nonstandard all my life.

    When I was a child, my parents described me as "a furnace" because of the amount of heat I generated in cold weather. Snuggling and cuddling would become unbearable after a few minutes. In Colorado winters, with the temperature around freezing, I'd walk to and from school wearing shorts and a light short-sleeve shirt. (Jackets and sweaters disappeared within a week because I'd never wear them and would always forget where I'd left them.) As a teenager, I learned how to voluntarily turn my furnace up high, and I once astounded people by heating up a small cabin with just my body warmth. Even now, my presence in a car in cold weather causes the windows to fog up within a few seconds, and I win party bets by plunging my hands and arm into ice water and keeping them there for fifteen minutes.

    Summers were often miserable for me as a child, and they still are. The earliest memory I have of a meltdown occurred at an outdoor summer social event where the heat+humidity, crowds, and noise made me feel like I was going to suffocate. I crawled under a table whose tablecloth reached the ground and took refuge away from the sun, the crush, and the din. Routinely, if the temperature at bedtime was above 24°C / 75°F, I would either fall asleep in the bathtub with the lovely cool metal conducting away my body heat, or else I'd sneak outside and cool off in a breeze or by hosing myself down.

    I've always loved wind and swimming, in part because I felt freed from the stifling cocoon of the heat bubble that would otherwise envelop me. I was an athlete in high school, with long powerful legs, but because track&field were in the summer, my sports were skiing, swimming, and water polo.

    Nowadays, exposure to heat or exertion, especially in muggy weather, leads to heat exhaustion in as little as twenty minutes. I've had full-blown heatstroke several times, twice severely enough to land me in hospital with severe dehydration (and, once, kidney failure). As I've aged, I've learned that my thermal hysteresis is also nonstandard: Once I get overheated, it can take 30 to 40 minutes of cold to stop my sweating and lethargy – but, strangely, on the rare occasions when I get too cold (e.g., after spending all day outdoors in a cold wind, or after swimming in near-freezing water for an hour), it can take half an hour before my shivering and teeth-chattering completely cease.

    I also find that I use my thermal sensitivity to navigate both physically and socially. When I walk into a kitchen, I know if an oven has been on, even from three or four meters away. I can walk through a car park and distinguish recently running parked cars from those that have had a chance to cool. More importantly – and more helpfully for an autistic person – I can sense a person's body heat from two meters away, and changes in a person's facial heat give me valuable clues about anger, embarrassment, shame, sadness, and the like. (I actually think most people are better at sensing heat than they know. Because it doesn't occur to them that they have such a sense, they ignore the information they literally have in their face.)

  15. A small mobile air con unit is a great investment. Weighted blanket instead of a duvet is much cooler, summer duvets also don't provide enough sensory support and are still too warm. Maybe place a soft towel over the bedsheet to absorb moisture. Autistic people can tend to still need layers of clothes or long sleeves for touch reasons even though they contribute to overheating, so light loose layers are a win here.

    Temperature extremes, particularly heat, can make autistic people feel sick and unwell, more than a non-autistic person and of course no-one functions well if they have a headache and feel sick! Strangely the weighted blanket is super effective for warming up when feeling cool and not overheating when warm. Great inventions!

    Also, remove the expectation "you should go outside in the sunshine" just because everyone else wants to and seems to think its healthy! The sun on the skin just for a few minutes can feel like being burnt to an autistic adult or child, you may even find us wearing long sleeves and scarves to avoid this when forced outside in the sun! Sunglasses on hand are good, the light tends to be brighter in the warmer weather and contributes to headaches - and also they're a great excuse not to make eye contact if you don't fancy that!

    And lastly, thanks for making the link between autism and temperature regulation. I've lived it all my life and never connected it with being autistic, yet it makes so much sense.

  16. Hiya, I also struggle with heat, and I find having a damp flannel to hand so I can rub it over my face and head really helps (I keep my hair cropped short as I can't stand the feel of hair on my face) Also, I hate wearing anything on my feet unless it's really cold lol then socks are OK! But seriously, I expect you already know about damp flannels, but especially for a little one, they're safe and effective and we have the choice of if and when to use them, too. Wishing you all the best x

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