Warm Weather Worries

Last updated: July 2022

If you’re like me and you’ve lived with multiple sclerosis for a bit, there is a good chance you’ve experienced the effects that hot weather can have on your symptoms. Not all, but many people with MS experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the temperature or humidity are on the rise. While the usual concerns we have during these times are symptoms like fatigue, pain, cognitive impairment, vision, and mobility problems, those are not the only areas affected. Warm weather can have a huge impact on our mental health and greatly impact our outlook on life.

Worsening MS symptoms

Warm weather has been a huge concern for me over my life with MS. It wasn’t always an issue for me, but about 15 years after being diagnosed, it really began to impact my life. The smallest increase in temperature can completely derail my day. My body can normally tell when it’s gotten warmer way before I even notice. For me, I know there has been an increase in temperature because my vision will begin to go a bit blurry. After that, I begin to slur my speech and get confused.

If I don’t make an effort to cool myself off, the burning nerve pain in my legs will increase as will my level of fatigue. Eventually, I begin to have trouble using my legs, even simply standing. I will also start dropping objects or having difficulty picking them up. In short, if I’ve had an MS symptom in the past, warm temps (even half a degree) will begin bringing them slowly to the surface again.

Mental anguish

The warmer the weather, the worse I feel, which tends to put me in a pretty pessimistic and depressed mood. I mentioned that I sometimes experience cognitive problems, like becoming confused, when the temperature increases and that definitely worsens these feelings. It becomes much harder to think rationally.

As a kid, I thought fondly of warmer weather and summer vacations, but these days, I cringe at the very thought of the warmer months. They terrify me. Not only do I feel lousier in the warmer months, but I also tend to feel like I am more isolated and missing out more. These are the times when most people are trying to get outside, be active, and do fun things. It’s hard not to feel left out when my body won’t let me partake. The kind of isolation that many experienced for the first time when the pandemic started was what people like me were already experiencing every time the warmer months come along.

Climate change and MS: A fearful future

Dealing with warm weather in the short term is already a difficult problem to handle in my head but when I have to think about the future, my warm weather anxiety skyrockets. We are starting to see the horrifying results that man has had on the environment. Climate change is occurring.1

While it seems common sense that this isn’t a good thing for people with MS, there have already been studies that highlight how those with multiple sclerosis are particularly at risk.2

It’s hard not to worry about that. My body has been well aware that temperatures have increased. Heat waves have been more frequent and more intense, and my quality of life has degraded in recent years because of that.

I’m no longer only worrying about my disease progressing but about the effects of climate change. So now, even if my disease were to stay in check, the effects of the damage that’s already been done will be increased because of global warming. This has me very concerned about my future.

Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Devin

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