It’s that time of year again… summer! If you are someone who is affected badly by heat, you are probably dreading how to survive this summer.
50-80% of people with MS find that their MS symptoms become exacerbated when they get too hot. Disruptions to autonomic and endocrine functions can also occur. Temporary changes in symptoms associated with heat are referred to as Uhthoff’s phenomenon. This happens because increased temperatures can prevent nerve fibres from working effectively. Additionally, in some people with MS, sweat function is impaired – and sweating is a natural way that bodies work to cool people down.
If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, maintaining a stable environmental temperature is great to prevent overheating and symptom flares. But what if you don’t have air conditioning or you want to leave the house?
Here are some products and strategies that can help you to cool down.
Strategies to try: The most basic (and cheapest!) ways of cooling down are:
- drinking cold/icy liquids
- sucking ice cubes
- taking a cold bath or shower (starting lukewarm, and slowly making it colder)
- sitting by a fan or breezy spot
- precooling (using cooling methods before being exposed to heat stress) can also help
- If you’re on the go, taking an icy beverage in a thermos, Chilly Bin or Chilly Bag could help you to last the distance. It is important not to put ice directly on the skin for the purpose of cooling.
Life style strategies play a big part too.
Avoiding hot environments – indoors or outdoors, seeking out environments with effective cooling, going out early morning or late evening, wearing lightweight and loose clothing, avoiding dark clothing, being sun smart (keeping covered and staying in the shade), closing curtains/blinds and keeping up fluid intake, can all help in preventing symptoms associated with overheating.
If you feel like you need to be doing more, an external cooling aid could be of benefit. External cooling devices can be either active or passive. Active cooling devices need a ower source and work by circulationg cooling liquid throughout a garment. Passive cooling aids, use gel, ice or another substance that has a cooling effect. Passive cooling aids come in different forms such as vests, ties, mats and wraps. Cooling garments have been shown to improve neurological function and reduce fatigue in individuals with MS.
What happens if I can’t afford any of these products? There are other homemade options that you can try, such as keeping some wheat bags or damp tea towels in the freezer, and putting them on the back of neck/shoulders when overheating.
written by Andrea Kortas-Ray