Changing Seasons for MS

Last updated: March 2022

I don’t know about your feelings, but I am pleased that summer is gone and the heat of the dog days of summer have given way to the cool nights of the fall. The heat this summer was brutal for me, since my multiple sclerosis doesn’t care for hot temperatures, and I spent an incredible amount of time indoors hunkered down in air conditioning. I love fresh air, but not when it is above about 80 degrees and 90 is nearly impossible.

In place of high temperatures, I now get to think of other outdoor hazards; the changing colors of the trees of autumn are beautiful but it also means that with one burst of wind and rain, those same leaves litter the ground, making surfaces slippery to walk on. In this part of Ohio, those wet leaves on the roadway are at times enough to cause a car’s rear tires to slip and slide. They can create even worse havoc for people trying to stay upright on just two feet. As the season changes, so does my walking. I shuffle a bit more, trying to keep my feet firmly planted to the pavement. Yes, this hazard affects everyone who is outdoors, but it is especially tough for those of us who struggle to maintain balance and our recovery from sudden moves such as an unexpected slip becomes much more difficult.

Fall is also the time to take inventory of my essential gear for the potential surprises of winter. It’s a time to get boots, gloves, a coat, and all the other cold weather gear assembled because without much advance warning the switch of weather takes place and we will wake to frost or snow and know we have again passed through autumn. Some people with MS don’t fare well in winter because of the cold air – their body reacts unkindly to the chill. For me, it is just the opposite and the chillier the better.  But I have my limits and do need to put on outwear when the temperatures drop to 45 or more.

Temperature variations bother those of us with MS in such different ways. A friend who lives in Florida is miserable coming north when the temps begin to drop and hit the 55 degree range. He has adjusted somehow to the heat of southern Florida in the summer by remaining indoors in air conditioning, but can’t tolerate our crisp autumn evenings. He is like a migrating bird and won’t head north again until the warm days of spring arrive.

The changing of the seasons affects each of us differently, but research suggests that for those of us with MS, we have less lesion activity in the fall and winter – in the study Historical changes of seasonal differences in the frequency of multiple sclerosis clinical attacks: a multicenter study, the review of MRI records shows that lesion activity is greater in the spring and summer months.1 It’s nice to think MS may be subdued in the winter months - now if only Mother Nature will do the same and make sure our pending winter weather is quiet and safe for us all.

Wishing you well,


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