7 Tips for Keeping Cool If You Have MS
MS patients: Be aware of symptoms of heat intolerance and learn how to keep cool.
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“With MS, the myelin or protective covering gets damaged either partially or completely, so it doesn’t cover the nerves,” says clinical nurse specialist Kathleen Schwetz. “So when people are exposed to different types of heat, and they are sensitive to it, their MS symptoms get worse.”
Some MS patients don’t have any problems. However, those who do may experience serious weakness, confusion and even fainting because of prolonged exposure to heat. If you reach that extreme limit, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
Heat comes from two sources: internal and external. Internal heat — meaning your core body temperature — can rise if an infection raises your temperature and causes a fever.
Also, your core body temperature can rise from medicines used to treat MS, such as interferons. The side effects include flu-like symptoms and fever.
For an infection, see your physician for treatment. You also can take over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen products to bring down your body temperature. Other options? Drink cool fluids, take a cool shower or rest.
External heat sources that can cause increased MS symptoms start with hot, humid weather. If you are outside cutting the lawn, playing tennis or hiking in the middle of the day when it’s hot, for example, the effects of the heat may cause your MS symptoms to intensify. You may feel weak, numb and tingly and your vision may become blurry, Ms. Schwetz says.
Your temperature also may go up if you swim or exercise in a pool with especially hot water. Ms. Schwetz recommends that you only get into pools with a temperature in the low 80s or cooler.
If you feel these symptoms, find a cooler setting, preferably where it’s air-conditioned. Drink cool fluids, put a wet towel around your neck and rest.
“If they go indoors and use whatever method to cool off and rest, within a few hours you should start to feel better,” Ms. Schwetz says.
Here are some suggestions from Ms. Schwetz to avoid overheating:
If you have MS, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Multiple Sclerosis Association of America can help you obtain fans and other cooling equipment. Ask your doctor for guidance. Your doctor can give you a standardized letter to your employers to let them know that you need a fan or AC and easy access to cool drinks.
“Most important, patients need to know that a heat intolerance incident is not a relapse of their symptoms, and it won’t make their MS worse,” Ms. Schwetz says. “But, a little bit of prevention and common sense goes a long way.”