As we round into spring, it feels like summer is just around the corner. While everyone struggles with some aspects of summer and the heat it may bring, this can be especially true for MS patients, as heat can cause some patients’ symptoms to worsen.
Between rising temperature, humidity, and the blazing sun, summer can be brutal for MS patients. Not only does the humidity and heat often result in decreased endurance and increased fatigue, but many other symptoms are also exacerbated by summer’s heat, humidity, and sun. Balance issues can worsen; numbness and tingling may be compounded; coordination may be lessened.
But why is summer so rough for multiple sclerosis patients?
Heat, Humidity, and MS
IN THIS ARTICLE
Heat slows down nerve impulses, which is why all of us may feel a little more sluggish in the summer’s heat and humidity. This is especially a problem for MS patients. Have you ever noticed how you may feel a little sluggish getting out of a hot tub or leaving a sauna? That feeling is compounding in MS patients. For individuals with MS, such heat and humidity exposure may make it difficult to walk or move at all.
The truth is any kind of heat can create difficulty for MS individuals, including fever, warm rooms, overexertion, hot flashes, or even too much time in the sun.
So what to do? Rather than embrace the heat (which, after a long winter, may be your natural inclination), seek out ways to stay cool, thus speeding back up the conduction of those nerves.
Stay Cool Strategies
For instance, ice packs can do wonders. Carrying a small cooler full of ice packs can go a long way on a hot summer day; simply use them to rub warm parts of your body down, or place them behind your neck to help cool yourself back down. Similarly, frozen water bottles can double as ice packs and ice water. Know where air conditioning is accessible. Consider wearing a cooling vest. Sit in front of fans. All of these are effective strategies for staying cooler and better managing your symptoms.
Similarly, cold ice water and cool showers can help bring down your body temperature rapidly when you feel like you are overheating. Even running cold water over your neck or wrists for a few minutes can go a long way, and can help restore better nerve function in a matter of minutes.
And if you are naturally a sun-lover, you can still do that—just be prepared. Simply consider taking a spray bottle filled with ice water so you can mist yourself and keep cool. Similarly, stick an ice pack behind your neck or back, drink plenty of cold water, and use plenty of sunscreen; sunburns can really do a number on MS patients, as they raise body temperature in addition to doing damage to your skin.
Another thing to keep in mind, too: many MS patients’ prescriptions for bladder issues may reduce sweating, which can result in a tendency to overheat even faster. Make sure you know the various contraindications and side effects of your medications, so you can better manage them and yourself.
All of these tips can help you manage heat and your symptoms. Warm days and sun exposure don’t have to be a reason for flare-ups or exacerbated symptoms. Be smart about managing your symptoms and stay on top of your temperature regulation, and you may find summer can be just as enjoyable as it was before MS.
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