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Staying Cool with M.S.

Staying Cool with M.S.

Summer is in full swing, and along with it comes backyard barbecues, outdoor recreation, and long sunny days.

The joys of summer are many, but for some people with multiple sclerosis, summer’s heat and humidity can make it even more difficult for already damaged nerve fibers to transmit electrical impulses, resulting in an exaggeration of symptoms, which may include fatigue, dizziness, and extreme weakness.

This kind of temporary flare-up of symptoms is called a pseudo exacerbation because, although the symptoms are uncomfortable and frightening, there is no true neurological damage taking place.

We all know the basic health rules that come with summer — apply sunblock, wear sunglasses, drink plenty of fluids, and limit sun exposure. But as M.S. patients, we also have to keep body temperature in mind by staying tuned in to the cues our bodies send us, and heading trouble off at the pass whenever possible.

If you are one of those affected by heat and humidity, there are steps you can take to stay cool.

While enjoying the great outdoors:

• Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day, from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

• Some sunshine is good for you, so enjoy the sun for a short time if you can take it, but choose shade over direct sunlight for the long haul.

• Wear lightweight breathable clothing made from natural fabrics, like cotton.

• Wear a brimmed hat to shade your face from the sun.

• Stay refreshed with a cool drink.

When you begin to feel symptoms of overheating (weakness, fatigue, dizziness):

• Don’t give in to the temptation to ignore them.

• Try to get to a cool spot like an air-conditioned building, or one with fans, or plenty of cross-ventilation.

• Take a dip in cool water.

• Refresh yourself with a spray mist bottle.

• Take cool shower, or better yet — treat yourself to a long, cool bath.

MS patients should also be wary of hot tubs, hot baths, hot showers, saunas, and strenuous exercise in hot weather. Fortunately, symptoms from overheating generally subside fairly quickly after a short cool down period.

There are many products made specifically for the purpose of keeping people with multiple sclerosis cool, including cooling vests, wrist bands, and neck collars, and several programs that assist M.S. patients who qualify. These can be used either as preventative measures or ways to recover from overheating.

Cooling Products for M.S. Patients:

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: Cooling Program

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America: Cooling Equipment Distribution Program

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Cooling Product Information and Assistance

Managing multiple sclerosis requires a mind/body connection, a willingness of the mind to not only hear what the body is saying, but to act on that information. We owe it to ourselves to take control over the things we can change. Those of us with M.S. don’t have to give up on summer… and we’ve always got those beautiful summer nights.

More on keeping cool this summer: 10 Summer Secrets to Keep You Cool

Read more: Conditions, Health, Living with MS, Multiple Sclerosis,

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

11 comments

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11:16AM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Thanks.

12:50AM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

wow very informative...

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roar-for-the-Asiatic-Lion/148251028527367?ref=sgm

4:35AM PDT on May 29, 2011

my husband can't take anything over 75, nothing he can do

5:37PM PST on Jan 11, 2010

My hubby seems to be the awkward one. He can be pouring buckets of sweat for no reason and have cold feet (probably goes with the cold heart). Joking apart, he has real problems controlling his temperature and has not had any advice from anyone on what he can try.

8:03AM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

and sometimes.....you feel the strain but refuse to adhere to it and rest (AHEM -GUILTY AS CHARGED!)

12:06AM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

Sometimes with MS we live in a trap where feeling any unwell symptoms is automatically put down as an exacerbation. Sometimes describing something I am told ---- but you have MS....! I have been very careful doing all the things as described in the article above but suddenly I started to have sweats, on top of throat problems and (proudly) I had been losing weight. It has been pointed out that I could have thyroid problems as well. When I realised that I was feeling abnormally anxious and higher bp I decided to have blood analysis tests coming up next week) But isn't it hard to know what to put down to MS and what just might be another issue? altogether?

10:52PM PDT on Sep 18, 2009

I have had MS for 50 years and am currently on a non inflammatory diet - no wheat, no legumes, no nightshades and no caesin. I feel really good & have no fatigue.

8:35AM PDT on Aug 18, 2009

Actually both the last two comments reflect
what I am trying as an MS sufferer. I live in Spain where the diet is extremely good - we grow much of our staples; I can have a good stab at keeping off the glutens; I can try to live life at a reasonable pace; like most Spanish people one keeps out of the sun directly and I emerge in the evening when it is hot for a dip in the pool. Lifestyle can be easily controlled here. When feeling tired "siesta" isnt a joke as it is in UK. And one must remember that MS is very much a "northern" condition.
I dont have to deal with intolerable driving conditions which stress one so much. My greatest danger is bad pavements or slippery stony caminos where I am at risk of losing my critical balance.

12:41PM PDT on Aug 3, 2009

I have MS and feel the heat like crazy yet I know a Doctor who told me his wife (who had MS) was always cold. It's a personal illness and often difficult to have a generalisation of symptoms.

8:56AM PDT on Jul 21, 2009

I do agree that anything like dietary changes are worth trying. Wouldn't it be great to try something one's self and in doing so, be able to quite possibly help others too!

Strange that we're now thinking of the affects of staying cool, yet in the 80's my dear friend thought the only relief was to get warmth and consequently she and her family moved to Spain. She didn't benefit though and sadly died 7 years ago. I'd try this cool approach or dietary or anything else if it may even be just a little likely that it would improve my condition. I'm fortunate that I don't have MS, but I so sympathise for all those who do, try anything and everything, it might just be all you're looking for!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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