Keeping Cool with MS
I’m melting! No, I’m not reenacting that famous scene from the Wizard of Oz, but yes I would love to have someone throw a bucket of water on me at times during the summer. It’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit and there is barely a breeze to stir the hot air, and we are only at the mid-point of this season. Multiple Sclerosis or not, we need lots of water to get through the summer.
What is it about water that offers such relief? Think a moment about the automobile… we have all either experienced the car’s radiator overheating or at least seen images of one steaming away. When the radiator runs dry, usually because of a leak, the car’s engine runs hotter. The water circulating in that radiator is meant to help keep the engine cool and the same can be said for our own need to be cooled. We have our own radiator working overtime to keep our body temperature regulated and when our system gets hot, we overheat. Just like we can’t let the radiator run dry in the automobile, to stay cool we must not let our bodies run low on fluid, and water is the best liquid to put in there. The human body is made of about 70% water and will start to sputter and malfunction if our fluids get depleted.
Do you remember science class and when you learned about the circulatory system? It is estimated our amazing system of veins, capillaries and arteries that moves our blood and other fluids through our body would be 60,000 miles long if it were stretched end-to-end. The circumference of the earth is 25,000 miles, and our circulatory system could wrap around the equator about two and one-half times. That is one heck of a long and complex radiator.
One of the quickest ways we can cool off is to find a way to cool the temperature of our circulatory system. Tossing the bucket of water on us is one way, but there are quicker and neater ways to accomplish the same thing. First and foremost, we need to drink water, and lots of it. With the problems most of us with MS experience with bladder incontinence and urgency, there is the desire to cut back on drinking water, but that is one of the worst things we can do — staying hydrated during the summer months is essential.
Cooling garments are in favor with people with MS who have heat sensitivity, and that pretty much includes all of us. There are organizations that provide them free of charge to people who might need the financial assistance, because these vests and hats and cloths are not cheap. MSAA is one of those groups who distribute cooling items free of charge and you can find their application online.
The human radiator – our circulatory system – has about 6 quarts of blood that moves over 12,000 miles a day in our body , that is like making a trip from coast to coast in the United states four times. One of the easiest ways to stay cool is to find a way to get our internal fluid temperatures lowered. That doesn’t require the fancy cooling equipment –it can be done for most of us with just cool water or ice cubes.
There are a few points where our blood supply runs very close to the surface of our body and it is at these points we can quickly cool our blood; you may know these spots as your pulse points. You know how holding a cold rag on the back of your neck backs you feel better? Most of us have seen or used the cooling scarfs that get soaked in water and then placed around our neck. This is effective because the blood flow there in the neck is very close to the surface, and the wet rag cools the blood – if you want to chill even faster, hold an ice pack or an ice cube in the same spot.
Another easily accessible point to cool the human radiator is at the wrists. Want to give it a quick test run? You know the point on your wrist that the nurse holds to measure your pulse? Go to your sink and turn on the cold water and let the water flow over the inside of your wrist at your pulse point. It won’t take long to feel your body cooling down from this technique. There are also pulse points at your ankles, inside your thighs, and on your temples. There are other pulse points that can be used for rapid cooling, but the neck and wrists are the easiest ones to reach.
As these long summer days continue to heat us up, keep those wet cloths, ice packs and ice cubes handy for a simple way to cool down.
Wishing you well,