It's That Time of the Year: Staying Cool With MS
For many of us, that dreaded time of the year is nearly upon us. The season when temperatures begin to rise and make life a living hell for many with Multiple Sclerosis. Changes in temperature can have a dramatic effect on those living with MS. It’s a topic that is heavily talked about with regards to MS, one that even I have covered a lot. With the effects of temperature change, heat in particular, being such a major problem for those with MS, there are many, many articles written about ways to keep cool. This is one of those, but, because this is such an important thing for those of us with MS, I feel we can’t have enough of them. I know I scour every such article I can find to try to find new tips for keeping cool! So here are some things I do, and afterwards, please feel free to share your cooling strategies, think of this as the beginning of a conversation!
One of my key strategies for keeping cool may seem obvious, but it can often be overlooked. I simply just try to be aware of not only what the weather will be, but the locations I’ll be going to. Are they places that have good air conditioning? Will it be humid as well as hot out (I feel like I can never get cool if it’s humid)? Maybe it will be in the mid 60s, but with 100% humidity, most places won’t have their AC on with weather like that, but the humidity will be punishing for me. Even time of day is important, afternoons are already very tough for me, if I will be in a place where I can’t control the temps, they’ll likely be even worse.
Again, this seems obvious, but I mention this because for many people with Multiple Sclerosis, air conditioning is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity. I generally need it to be much colder than most people. I don’t need that to simply be comfortable, I need it to function. I need it to be able to see, and speak, and move around. It’s something that those with MS just don’t understand. It’s sort of nice out, let’s just ride with the windows down! No, let’s not, because that’s not enough and not a consistent enough cool. Consistent and controllable temperature is the key. Sure, maybe there is a nice breeze out, but a cool breeze isn’t consistent enough.
Many of us have learned to rely on cooling products. They can be extremely helpful, so I’ll share what I use:
- Cooling vest: these things can be bulky, but essential. They can be expensive though. Luckily our friends at the MSAA have a program to help get people the much needed cooling vests they need (This and a few of their other programs are reasons I tend to not participate in the MS Walks these days, instead, I try to drive donations towards these programs because I’ve seen just how helpful they are and have benefited from them myself). You can check out their program here.
- Migraine hat: This is something I found on Amazon: while not something I’d wear out, I use it at home when I need to cool down. It’s basically a cap that is loaded with ice packs. Makes it very easy to use, much easier than a cooling headband that I used to use. There are various makes and models out there too.
- Ice packs: Again, sounds simple right, but they’re important. I get small flexible ones and literally put them in my pockets. My cargo shorts are more than just a sweet fashion choice, they often have these small ice packs in them, right in my pockets. My best friend’s wedding? Yep, I had small ice packs in the pockets and jacket of my tuxedo. They even have ice packs these days that only need cold water to get recharged, those can be especially handy.
Sounds pretty basic, right? It is, but worth mentioning that choosing the right clothing is extremely important. I tend to rock shorts most of the year because of the effect high temps have on me. I also pay attention to fabric choices and avoid heavy materials as much as possible. I get extremely picky about t-shirts. Many are way too thick and made with cotton. I actually have polo style shirts that are cooler than some of my t-shirts because of the materials they are made from.
What about you?
So those are some simple but extremely important tips I use to keep cool. What about those reading this? What do you do? Do you have a particular product you use? I’m always interested in whatever cooling tips I can get!
Does anyone experience worsening symptoms with cooler or cold weather more so than warm or hot weather?