While some people look forward to the warmer days of summer, for people with multiple sclerosis, summer heat may make symptoms worse.
MS is a condition that damages nerves. This interferes with the flow of information inside the brain, as well as between the brain and other parts of the body.
Many people who have MS experience heightened symptoms when they are somewhere hot or humid, or when they have a fever.
This type of reaction can be brought on by certain activities such as sunbathing, sitting in a hot spa, and taking a hot shower or bath. Being outdoors in a hot climate, or getting overheated from exercise can also be triggers.
Doctors attribute this temperature sensitivity to the effect of heat on already damaged nerves.
In MS, portions of the protective covering of nerve fibers is damaged in a process known as demyelination. This slows the transmission of electrical signals through the damaged portions of the nerve.
Heat slows these nerve signals even more, resulting in worse symptoms.
Try these strategies to ease heat-related symptoms:
• Plan to stay in an air-conditioned environment during the hottest and most humid times of day. People with MS may qualify for tax deductions to help with the cost of buying an air conditioner with a doctor’s prescription.
• Wear heat-friendly clothing such as lightweight or loose clothes and fabrics that breathe.
• Try wearing a cooling vest or other cooling products, such as neck wraps or bandanas, to keep your core temperature down during hot weather or exercise.
• Drink icy cold drinks or eat popsicles to help keep your core temperature down.
• Turn on fans indoors to keep air moving.
• Try exercising in a cool pool that is 85 degrees or less.
Every person with MS reacts differently to changes in temperature. Researchers have noted that an increase in core body temperature of as little as one-fourth to one-half of a degree can cause worse symptoms in some people.
Researchers also note that the people who are most sensitive to heat are also most responsive to cooling down to alleviate symptoms.