Heat sensitivity and MS
People living with multiple sclerosis often experience a reaction to heat and a build-up of symptoms as a result. Depending on your situation, you may notice an increase in fatigue, blurred vision, loss of balance or a flare up of problems with concentration, memory or other cognitive symptoms – particularly on a hot day, during exercise or in an overheated space. The effects of heat don’t cause permanent damage to nerves and you should feel better once cool.
You might also experience heat sensitivity with colds, flu or other infections that cause a rise in body temperature. Remember that symptoms subside as your body temperature decreases, so it’s good to find ways to keep cool.
Managing heat sensitivity
If you find the summer months difficult or your symptoms flare up due to heat, the following tips may be useful.
- Cool your body from the outside – clothing, find shade, monitor your temperature, use body cooling sprays, cooling garments or other products.
- Cool your insides and stay hydrated – drink fluids, especially water, but limit caffeine which can interfere with sleep and increase fatigue. You could also suck an ice cube, icy pole or frozen fruit chunks.
- If you’re on the move – avoid direct hot sun, rest during hot temperatures, park under cover or if outdoors, use a windscreen shield, call ahead to destinations about air conditioning or consider shopping online or using a delivery service.
- Exercise – choose a cool or shady environment, exercise gently and rest often. Pre-cool yourself with cold drinks or a cold shower, or spray yourself with cool water.
- Clothing – wear lightweight, loose clothing (light colours can also help) and hats.
- Cool bath or shower or using a cooling suit (before activity) can give you more energy.
- Some people find eating makes them warmer, and prefer salads or other cold meals and/or sip iced water while eating.
Keeping your environment cool:
- Keep your home cool – use a fan, air conditioner or evaporative cooler
- Turn central heating down or off.
- When you take a bath or shower, preferably start with tepid water.
- A floor or desk fan can help to keep the temperature down and the air owing in a room. A handheld fan can be useful when moving around.
- Close curtains or blinds to help keep rooms cool.
Canstar also have a great guide on the cost of air conditioning depending on your air conditioning unit size and the temperature you have set.
You can find that here.
If you have heat sensitivity issues and/or a worsening of symptoms talk to your MS nurse or GP, and tell your neurologist at your next visit.