It’s estimated that 60% to 80% of people living with MS are sensitive to increased temperatures.
An overheated nervous system does not work as well as one that remains at normal temperature. When a person’s body temperature rises, it impairs the ability of the demyelinated nerve to conduct electrical impulses. As temperatures around them rise, people with MS who are sensitive to heat typically describe an increase in their usual symptoms or new symptoms.
While we can’t control the weather, there are many techniques and tools that can help you control the effects of warm weather and other situations that increase core body temperature. Read on for some tips:
Avoid Going Out During the Warmest Time of the Day
Schedule activities, whenever possible, during cooler times of day: early morning or evening. Early mornings tend to work better for people with MS. The body naturally warms as the day progresses.
Wear Light Clothing
Wear light colors, which will absorb less heat from the sun. Loose fitting lightweight cotton clothing will wick away moisture and improve comfort.
Water, water, water.
Cool showers or baths can be very helpful when your body temperature is elevated. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick refreshing spray to your face. Swimming is a great low impact, comfortable exercise when you have access to a pool. Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer and grab one when you’re ready to go outside. As the ice melts, you’ll have a supply of cold water with you.
Cool Your Environment
Air conditioning, evaporative coolers (swamp coolers) and fans can cool the air around you or move the air to enhance your own cooling efforts. If you have an air conditioned car, allow it to cool before driving so you don’t become symptomatic while driving. If your home has a lower level, organize your home so you spend more time in the cooler areas.
Many people living with MS complain of increased fatigue during warm weather. This is an especially important time to pace yourself and lighten your schedule. Again, be sure you avoid dehydration which will increase your fatigue.
Practice moderation and don’t overexert yourself. Scale back when needed; some hot days you may need to decrease your exercise time or walk instead of running. Position an electric fan directly towards you when using an exercise machine. Pre-cooling, post-cooling and cooling during the exercise with cooling wraps may help avoid overheating.
Wearing cooling garments can have significant impact helping you to get outside and stay active in the summer heat. There are a number of manufacturers of cooling vests and wraps. These systems are great in all climates and can be worn discreetly under clothing if desired.