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MS hacks for hot weather

August 3, 2015

If you have MS and have lived through one summer in the Deep South, you deserve a major award, such as the leg lamp in “A Christmas Story.” This summer is my 17th down here since I was diagnosed — my 17th summer to experience the heat sensitivity associated with MS.

The year 2014 was the hottest on record, and this summer, the eastern part of the United States has been hotter than usual, once again. In July, temperatures stayed in the 90s – often the upper 90s, while heat-index values were in the 100s, and the humidity topped 90 percent in my neck of the woods. Although the area experienced milder temperatures and lower humidity this past weekend, temperatures are forecast to climb to 95 degrees today and tomorrow.

Heat sensitivity

In 1890, Dr. William Uhthoff first described the link between heat and MS. Known as Uhthoff ‘s syndrome, it occurs when exposure to heat or strenuous exercise temporarily worsen MS symptoms. As little as a one-degree elevation in body temperature can affect nerve conduction and cause a feeling of weakness, especially in the arms and legs.

Before MRIs and lumbar punctures were used to diagnose MS, patients suspected of having the disease were subjected to a hot bath test. If the patients experienced an increase in weakness or fatigue or any loss of vision when submerged in hot water, they were diagnosed with MS.

Healthline News cited a 2011 study in which Swedish researchers found that more than 70 percent of all MS patients experience some degree of heat sensitivity. According to the study’s authors, “The most striking result of this study is that heat sensitivity is significantly correlated with — and … appeared as an explaining factor for — the most incapacitating symptoms of MS: fatigue, concentration problems, and pain.”

According to the National MS Society, “It is important to remember that the heat generally produces only temporary worsening of symptoms. It does not cause more disease activity, such as demyelination or damage to the nerves themselves. The symptoms generally reverse quickly when the source of increased temperature is removed.”

Keep your cool

So how can you keep from overheating? The National MS Society recommends staying in an air-conditioned environment during periods of extreme heat and humidity. Consider using an oscillating fan while exercising indoors or in a cool pool (less than 85 degrees).

During outdoor activity, you can minimize overheating by using cooling products. When dampened, cooling products, such as neck wraps and bandanas, display unique cooling properties. You can also stay cool by wearing  a vest with insulated pockets that hold small ice packs.

You can order cooling equipment from the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. If you have questions about the MSAA Cooling Program, you can call MSAA at 1-800-532-7667 or send an email to clientservices@mymsaa.org. You can also download an application for the cooling program at www.msaa.org.

Everyday Health suggests additional ways to manage heat intolerance from MS, such as:

  • Carrying a bottle of water with you throughout the day, and drinking frequently
  • Enjoying a cool treat such as chilled juice or frozen treats to keep your body temperature down.

Simple lifestyle changes can make a difference, too. Consider gardening or running errands in the early morning or late evening instead of during the heat of mid-day. Make sure you always have shade available, even if it means carrying an umbrella everywhere you go. Wear a lightweight, loose, breathe-able clothing, light colors and a hat. Duck into air conditioned buildings as often as you can.

If, despite your best efforts, you become overheated, remember to remove yourself from the heat source as quickly as possible. I have found that after being outside on a hot day, I can cool off by applying refrigerated aloe vera gel to my arms and legs. If you get extremely overheated, you might benefit from taking a cool shower or pouring a bottle of cold water on the top of your head.

Do you have other suggestions to help people with MS beat the heat? Send me your ideas in a comment, and I will include as many as I can with the next post.

 

 

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2 Responses to “MS hacks for hot weather”

  1. Johan Says:

    I’m a 46 yr. old, single male, diagnosed with RRMS in April of 2012. I got a cooling thing for around my neck from a pharmaceutical company gig. It seems to be working better than the air conditioning.

    JE

    Like


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