A relapse is a characteristic of the ‘remitting-relapsing’ form of MS where a person may experience new symptoms or a change to existing symptoms. Your neurologist or GP will confirm the relapse and assist you with appropriate treatment but there are also ways you can improve your ability to manage a relapse.
Be physically and mentally prepared for a relapse
One of the most important ways to be prepared for a relapse is to ensure you are in the best possible physical and mental condition. By living well and taking care of your overall health you can optimise your ability to cope with a relapse if and when it occurs. Here are just some of the ways you can do this:
- Ensure you get adequate sleep
- Maintain good nutrition and regular exercise
- Use stress and mood management techniques such as mindfulness and counselling
- Avoid infections
- Maintain your social relationships with friends, family and community
MS Queensland provides wellbeing workshops and information sessions designed to help you live well with MS. We also provide a range of services and resources covering nutrition, exercise, mindfulness and community support.
Find an MSQ service near you
Have a relapse management plan
Having a relapse management plan can help you cope better and minimise stress during this time.
- Keep your MS information and medication well organised and accessible. This may include details of your medication and important contact numbers such as your neurologist, GP, and other healthcare providers.
- Identify areas that may require management during a relapse – for example work arrangements, childcare arrangements, transport, or other commitments that you may not be able to manage during a relapse.
- Prepare yourself emotionally – a relapse may take you by surprise and you may not anticipate its psychological impact. It may be beneficial to have access to support from a clinical psychologist or counsellor during these times.
- Communicate with your health team – it’s important to talk to your neurologist and GP about relapse management and what to do during a relapse. This can include who to call first, how long to wait for symptoms to settle and which hospital to go to should you need to be admitted. It is also helpful to take a copy of your diagnosis confirmation letter with you when you travel in case you need to present to a hospital emergency department.
You can use the Relapse-management plan template to help you start preparing your own management plan.
Managing the relapse
During a relapse your main focus is to manage the practical, physical, and psychological impact of the relapse and minimise any further risk to your health during this time. If you have a relapse-management plan this is the time to use it.
If you are experiencing a relapse and are not sure what to do, you can call our NeuroAssist InfoLine on 1800 177 591 for support.
Make an appointment to see your GP as soon as you can. Depending on the severity of your symptoms your GP may prescribe treatment or refer you to your neurologist or other health professional. Your GP may also wait and see if the symptoms clear on their own.
If you are unable to contact your GP or neurologist and are finding it difficult to cope with the symptoms go the nearest hospital emergency department. Make sure you take relevant information such as your letter of diagnosis, medication, referrals etc. with you. And if possible, take a support person with you.
During a relapse you may also need the support of other health professionals such as an MS nurse, community support worker, physiotherapist or counsellor. MS Queensland can connect you with all of these services and help coordinate your care.
Your neurologist or GP is the best person to provide recommendations for the medical treatment of a relapse. Corticosteroids (steroids) are typically used to treat and reduce the intensity of symptoms during an attack or relapse, while immunotherapies such as disease-modifying treatments (DMT) can be used to reduce the frequency or recurrence of relapses.
Learn more about MS treatments