The sun is setting later, the days are getting longer, and the weather is heating up. As we enter the summer season, temperature changes can physically and psychologically impact people living with multiple sclerosis. Many people tend to experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms due to an increased susceptibility to heat – whether this is a result of living in a hot environment, sunbathing, getting overheated from exercise, or taking a very hot shower or bath.
Some people notice that their vision becomes blurred when they get overheated—a phenomenon known as Uhthoff’s sign. These temporary changes can happen with even a slight rise in core body temperature (as little as half of a degree) because an elevated temperature further impairs the ability of a demyelinated nerve to send messages. It’s important to know, that although it can make symptoms worse, it does NOT make the disease worse. Heat can’t cause an attack or relapse or make your MS progress.
We understand that the hotter months can be challenging for some, however, we’re here to help you manage how your body responds to heat and to give you the confidence and support you need to conquer and enjoy summer head-on! Here is a list of strategies that may assist you in keeping cooler and reducing a worsening of symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to replace what is lost through perspiration and evaporation
- Drink cool or iced drinks from the fridge and include some ice in fruit smoothies
- Keep your feet cool by rolling a frozen bottle of water backwards and forwards under your feet
- Put your feet in a bucket of cold water for a while (this cools down the entire body)
- Wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose ‘breathable’ clothing
- Wear cooling products such as a cooling vest, bandana, necktie or wet flannel and scarf
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat in the sun
- Use a spray bottle to lightly spray water over your face or body and/or use a small personal fan
- Choose clothes and bed linen made from natural fibres
- Plan your day or week ahead of time by checking the weather report
- If venturing outside, choose to go out in the cooler part of the day and rest through the warmer part of the day (anywhere between 11am and 3pm). Enquire beforehand whether locations will be air-conditioned
- Plan your shopping, have groceries delivered or consider shopping online
- Park the car undercover if possible. If parking outside use a sun shield on the windscreen to keep the heat out
- Exercise in a cool environment. If exercising outside, pick cooler times of the day and look for some shade
- Swimming and water aerobics in the pool is also a great way to exercise and stay cool
- Exercise gently and stop and rest if you start to feel overheated
Everyone deserves to feel involved and energised for the summer months and making small changes to your day-to-day can enable you to do more, not less. Keep in contact with friends and family or connect with MS Queensland through our NeuroAssist InfoLine on 1800 177 591 or contact us on email@example.com
MS Queensland acknowledges the information provided here has been sourced and modified from the following original resources: MS Limited (2011) “Top 10 ways to beat the summer heat”, Intouch Magazine (Summer 2011) “Garments to keep you cool” and MS Society UK (2013) “Hot and cold – the effects of temperature on MS”.