Those of us in the multiple sclerosis (MS) community understand the power of sharing the journey with others, and I know I’ve gotten a lot out of my conversations with other MS warriors. I wanted to share an answer to a question I received from a MyMSTeam member who recently wrote looking for advice about a topic we all know: MS and heat. Check out her question, along with my answer regarding what has helped me along the way.
Question: How do you handle random heat/flushing incidents? Do you have any solutions that have helped you?
Answer: Temperature fluctuation and heat intolerance can be a very challenging part of life for those of us living with MS. I experienced body temperature changes for years without knowing why. When I was diagnosed with MS in 2019, I remember a light bulb switching on in my head. That “a-ha!” moment explained why I could go from borderline hypothermic freezing to streaking through my house with an ice pack strapped to my rear. It can be very “whiplashy” to say the least. One thing I’ve found helpful is to be prepared for all situations.
As we approach the summer weather, the inevitable reality of heat comes back into play. The days of getting excited for a hot summer day are long over. In fact, for many of us with MS, summer brings on a cautionary game of how to survive the weather without exacerbating our already tricky MS symptoms. It’s easy to bundle up and plug in a heating pad when Jack Frost rolls around, but there’s only so much we can do to stay cool in the summer, aside from getting into the frozen pizza freezer at the grocery store. (True story: I’ve done this and unfortunately was asked to leave, so I don’t recommend trying that.)
So, how do I navigate the sporadic heat flush that causes me to feel dizzy, nauseous, weak, and even light-headed? Get ready to experiment! I have found a few creative ways to manage the hotter months so I can still enjoy myself without staying locked in my house like a caged animal glued to the air conditioner.
Much like an onion, layers are vital for anyone battling heat intolerance. If you get chilly, throw on a layer. Feeling flushed? Take off a layer. I like to wear light fabrics that offer good airflow. Stay away from anything with nylon. And it’s always a good idea to avoid fabrics that cling or are too tight. You can also find UV-protective clothing that doesn’t absorb heat as much as standard fabrics. Light-colored fabrics are always a wise choice. I also like to dunk a ball cap in ice water before heading out on really hot days. Keeping your head cool can reduce your overall body temperature.
As soon as the temperature is over 80 degrees, I bring an ice pack with me pretty much wherever I go. I fell in love with ice packs from ReLeafpack because they’re soft, eco-friendly, and stay cool for over two hours. With a variety of sizes, it’s easy to even stick one in the back of your pants or shorts, and it’s easy to hide, but you should use the brand and style that feels most comfortable for you.
I use a micro-misting water bottle designed for houseplants and fill it with ice water. I throw it in my bag each day so I can spritz myself when I feel the heat becoming too intolerable. The fine mist offers a cool, refreshing release without soaking myself down when I’m out and about.
Sunshades and parasols can be great to make sure you stay shaded. I can even get overheated riding in the car with the air conditioner on. Sun coming through the car window can make my skin hurt at times. Window shades that stick directly onto the inside of your car window are a great solution.
There are so many products available to combat heat intolerance. Cooling vests, cool wraps, personal fans that go around your neck, and more. Explore locally or online to find what works for you. The more products you try, the better you will be able to figure out your ideal heat arsenal. When in doubt, open your freezer and hang out with the frozen peas for a second.
There’s nothing worse than having to stay home when your family wants to hit the beach on a hot summer day. Find a beach or pool that offers cabana rentals to remain shaded. You can even find a 10-by-10-foot pop-up tent at Walmart for around $50. Pop it up and bask in the shade, along with your other heat-repelling tools, of course.
It’s also a good idea to make plans around the weather whenever possible. I try to stick to outdoor activities that take place early in the morning or early evening. I dine inside where it’s cool or opt for patio dining that offers misting devices.
Avoid things that will worsen your heat intolerance. Hot tubs, hot baths, staying outside in 90-degree weather all day long, wearing a Spandex bodysuit in the summer — these are probably all things you want to avoid.
Although I embrace these heat hacks, I know there are many more that I’m not aware of. Share your heat tolerance strategies in the comments below so we can all benefit from what’s worked for the rest of the community.
Good luck and stay cool!
MyMSTeam columnists discuss multiple sclerosis from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles do not reflect the opinions of MyMSTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyMSTeam content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.