Heat sensitivity in multiple sclerosis

Many people living with multiple sclerosis find that heat can make their symptoms worse. While it’s common to experience a flare-up of symptoms when hot, the effect is temporary and should calm down when you’re cool again. With the right information and support, heat issues can be managed effectively to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

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.

Personal cooling:

  • 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.

Cooling costs

The Queensland Government offers a range of concessions and subsidies to help people living with a disability and/or chronic disease who are affected by changes in temperature. To assist you in your research we have listed some helpful resources here.


Getting help

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. Call our team for more information and tips around heat and MS, on 1800177591


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