A seated person made out of flames sits by themselves looking lonely.

The Additional Struggles With Warm Temps

Earlier today, I found myself collapsed on the floor, sweaty, sore, with numb extremities, and very blurry vision. At first, I wasn’t even really sure what had happened or how long I’d been there, until I realized that I had fallen while trying to walk on a treadmill. We’re in the midst of some pretty high temperatures and humidity where I live and, as so often the case, they had a major impact on me because of MS. After I cooled down and was able to pick myself up, one thought really started to nag at me: How is this my life now, where a change in temperature can destroy me in seconds?

The extreme impact of heat on MS symptoms

Sensitivity to temperature changes is a common problem for people with MS, but I’m not sure that a lot of people understand just how big a problem it can be.

Physical difficulties

I like to think I do a pretty decent job of living my life with MS. It’s a part of me, but I rarely feel like it has complete control of me. That is until the weather turns warm (although, in the winter, people jacking up the heat can be just as big a problem for me). In the past, I’ve discussed how temperature changes and humidity can affect me. Warmer temps further impair our damaged nerve's ability to send messages.1 This can, pretty quickly, lead to a temporary worsening of symptoms. Typically, we feel better once we can cool our bodies down. The thing is, just because this worsening of symptoms is temporary, that doesn’t mean it has a major lasting impact on our lives.

Non-physical difficulties

Knowing that we will feel better once we cool off does nothing to help with the interruption to our lives. For so many people, warm weather means vacations, socializing, outdoor activities, and generally signifies fun. If you have MS and the heat affects you as it does me, then chances are you will end up missing out on a lot of that.

While the warmer months are normally most people’s most pleasurable times, they can be hell if you have MS. Not only do we physically feel awful because of the heat, but we also have to deal with feelings of missing out and of isolation. I know in my case, feelings of loneliness are a big problem, as most of my friends are out enjoying weather that would make me be unable to even stand. Because of this, warm temps signify more than physical issues to me: they have an emotional and mental toll as well.

Living with warm temps

For many of us, we have no recourse but to deal with the warmer months. Moving to a better climate simply isn’t possible. Yes, we can obviously utilize cooling gear to increase our chances of enjoying these months, but they only work up to a certain point. For many living with MS, the dog days of summer can be a huge challenge to get through and can take a massive toll on our mental health.

I find that the warmer months are some of the best times to reach out to others with MS who are also stuck in the same situation. I also try to lean into my hobbies a bit more. My best advice for dealing with warmer months? Avoid social media as much as possible. There’s no need to throw another log on the FOMO (fear of missing out) fire!

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

Devin

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