How To Beat The Heat This Summer
Well guys, it’s almost that time of year again. The time of year I love, but my body hates—SUMMER. I live near the Dallas/Fort Worth area and it’s already heating up and humid as ever. If this heat is any indication of what the temperatures are going to be this summer, then I’m going to need to keep cool! I wanted to remind everyone of the effects heat can have on our MS riddled bodies, and what to do to avoid heat related exacerbations.
Heat and MS symptoms
The National MS Society reminded me that elevated temperatures further impair the ability of a demyelinated nerve to conduct electrical impulses. In other words, heat causes our nerve signals to process irregularly. I notice when I’m in the heat too long not only does my body get weak, but my mind does also. My arms and legs will feel weighed down as if by sand bags and my legs cease to work properly. When I’m overheated I often do look like a drunken person stumbling around. Then will come the brain fog and inability to think and produce words properly. While I have two VERY outdoorsy boys and I am an outdoorsy girl myself, I have had to learn how to keep cool as much as possible. We love being outside, especially when it’s summertime.
Enjoying the summer and protecting our bodies
So, here are a few tips I have for you all as the heat of summer approaches:
- Avoid extreme temperatures (if possible) - As much as I love to be outdoors and enjoy time with my family, there are moments where I have to ditch the fun and go cool off indoors. Then there are the days where I know the heat and humidity is going to obliterate me, so I just avoid it all together. I have found that while I hate having to stay inside while everyone else is outside having fun, that sometimes (for my body’s sake) it’s absolutely necessary to stay in where the air conditioning is running full blast. I would much rather go inside for a little bit than stay outdoors, overheat and have to miss out on the fun for a few days afterwards because I refused to take care of myself.
- Use cooling equipment - If you have to be outdoors for a time or even enjoy exercising outdoors, remember it is doable. However, make sure to keep on hand cooling products. They have so many different things these days. These products can include vests, neck wraps, and more simple items like wet bandannas and personal fans. My personal favorites are the hand held spray bottles with the fan attached. You can even keep it in the fridge to give you a quick cool down when you need it most.
- Hydrate - Drink water like it’s going out of style. On days I know it’s going to be hot and humid I like to freeze water bottles and have them ready whenever I need them. Not only do they offer a way to cool yourself off, but you have a nice icy beverage at the same time! Win, win. You can also keep cool with snow cones or popsicles. My toddler and I really enjoy these on hot summer days! Any icy beverage will do the trick.
- Wear light weight clothing or clothes that breathe - I have made the mistake of wearing jeans and a heavy t-shirt on a hot summer day. Not only was I miserable that day, but because I got too hot I was miserable for a few days afterwards. Save yourself, and wear light colored clothing and light clothing in general. You can always wear a hat too; I’ve noticed that if my head is cool then the rest of me stays cooler too.
- Plan ahead and remember timing is everything - If you know it’s going to be a killer hot day, plan your outdoor activities for earlier in the morning or later in the evening. Also try to find activities where there is ample amount of shade. On hot summer days the shade is my best friend. My one and a half year old would live outdoors if I let him, and I have found that if I sit in the shade (with an ice water on particularly hot days) then I can comfortably watch him play and enjoy my time outdoors as well.
Monitoring symptoms in the heat
These are my biggest tips and tricks to avoid MS induced heat exhaustion. It is important to remember that while our symptoms that come on from the heat are scary, they are only temporary (pseudoexacerbations). Thankfully, the heat will not cause more damage. Usually when our bodies are able to cool off the symptoms quickly subside….however, if you really overdo it in the heat the symptoms can last days. So, stay cool my friends, and take good care of yourselves this summer! :)
I have the hardest time with my MS during the following season: