Beth Bullard , Occupational Therapist
2 Dec 2015 | ~2:45 Engagement Time
Around 60-80% of individuals living with M.S. experience heat intolerance, particularly during the warmer summer months. When the body’s temperature elevates, nerve conduction is slowed or blocked. This causes a temporary worsening of symptoms.
The effect of heat intolerance are unique for every individual. We each have our own threshold and response to heat and humidity.
It is important to note, heat does not cause relapses, or exacerbations of the disease process. The effects are temporary with symptoms.
When planning your daily activities, think about the weather forecast and plan to engage in indoor tasks during the heat of the day. Schedule rest or cool-down breaks into your routine. Be mindful of where you are going. Does the venue have air conditioning, covered parking, accessibility?
Summer is a great time to eat light, fresh, and cool foods. Stay hydrated with plenty of decaffeinated cool drinks. Serve meals that do not heat up the kitchen. Fresh salads, sandwiches, or chilled soups are welcome delights on a hot summer night.
Light-colored clothing made of breathable materials is ideal for keeping you cool. Try sportswear with moisture-wicking properties. Layer your clothes to be able to quickly adjust to changing temperatures. Moistened and refrigerated wrist bands, scarves, t-shirts, shorts or swimsuits might be a nice addition to your summer wardrobe.
Avoid direct sunlight by wearing a vented hat, visor, or carry an umbrella. Keep the blinds drawn or consider tinting the windows. Park in shaded areas and sit on covered porches.
In addition to staying hydrating, misting fans, sprinklers, and hoses make summer time that must sweeter.
The use of wearable cooling products before, during, or after activity can extend your ability to engage in your chosen task and lessen the effects of the heat. There are a variety of products from wrist bands and bandanas to ice-packed or battery-powered circulating vests.
To help meet the need for cooling devices, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) offers a Cooling Program. Qualified individuals with MS can receive a cooling kit which includes a vest worn under clothing with a variety of accessories for the neck, wrists and ankles, or they can receive a standard cooling vest to be worn over clothing. More information and an application can be found on the MSAA website.
In developing your summer cooling plan, utilize your resources. Talk to your healthcare team, vendors, and local and national M.S. chapters. Evaluate cooling products and lifestyle changes for fit and feasibility.
By being prepared with these plans, techniques, and devices, you can do your best to mitigate the uncomfortable consequences of heat intolerance – before they start to bother you!