Every summer I am amazed at the heat. Ridiculous – right? I have a virtual 2 degree window of comfort (I’m so annoying). Cold temperatures are made bearable with cardigans and blankets. Warm weather, on the other hand, seems to melt my brain. Heat and Multiple Sclerosis work together like two villains in a comic book.
Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis are notorious for heat intolerance resulting in an endless variety of possible repercussions – this is known as Uhthoff’s phenomenon (or Syndrome). Summers may be beautiful, but they are also difficult for us.
Granted, I live in South Carolina where we have a special, damp, sauna-like summer. I step outside and as my glasses steam up I can expect to possibly crumble in muscle pain and spasms, get lost within sight of my own house, forget every word in my vocabulary, have my vision turn to a milky blur, and possibly find the world spinning in an episode of vertigo. This existence is absolutely ridiculous and I haven’t even brought up the unreal fatigue that comes with the heat.
At this point, I don’t expect to develop heat tolerance as a natural progression of my Multiple Sclerosis. Rather, it’s time that I learn to deal with increasing intolerance. I recently posted about the services offered by various Multiple Sclerosis organizations, including assistance with cooling devices and air conditioners. What else can we do to live life in the summer with the common heat intolerance that accompanies Multiple Sclerosis?
Let’s conquer the heat this summer.
- Air Conditioning – To hell with saving money on this. The air conditioners are going full blast from now on. If you don’t have one, you can contact your local branch of the National MS Society for assistance.
- Fans – Ceiling fans, attic fans, oscillating fans, desk fans, handheld fans, handheld fans with misters, folding fans – get some.
- Cooling Equipment – Cooling vests, cooling hats, wrist straps, and neck coolers are becoming commonplace for those of us with MS. Some use wet scarves around their necks, some folks find creative ways of keeping ice packs on parts of their body that cool them down. The NMSS and MSAA can help you obtain a variety of cooling equipment.
- Cool Water – Cool water on your wrists can make you feel cooler overall. You will also feel cooler if you keep hydrated by drinking lots of cold water. When all else fails – a cool shower!
- Frozen Stuff – Keep ice cubes on hand in the freezer for cooling down drinks or for eating by themselves to cool you down. To shake things up, freeze some grapes or blueberries for quick cool snacks or buy some popsicles!
- Pretend It’s Easter – Wear light colors like white or pastels to reflect the sunlight and heat.
- Pretend You’re Goth – Use a parasol!
- Hats – I love hats, but I never wore them… until now. I have invested in some wide-brim summer hats to carry the shade with me. For spontaneous sun-exposure I carry a fold-friendly cloche.
- Plan Ahead – Research places that you’re going – local and far away. Know what to expect from the weather and amenities for places you’re going. Avoid being out in the hottest part of the day and try to have a plan when you leave your house so that you can have realistic expectations.
- Swim – Swimming is good for you. Water will cool you down. Show your support and participate in the MSAA’s Pool Party. Swim if you can!
- Just Say No – While I am an advocate of going out and being a part of your community, sometimes you just have to chill, literally, in some air conditioning. Remember that sometimes you will just have to turn people down.
Summer is uniquely difficult for us, and this year summer began in March. While the weather lately hasn’t afforded us much of a chance to plan ahead for the summer we’re experiencing, it’s time to suit up for the battle with heat.
How do you battle the heat?