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Multiple Sclerosis is no fun. Especially in the summertime.
Around this time of year, every year, I find that my energy and motivation wanes and my productivity level drops. I am pretty hard on myself, always having high expectations of my abilities and what I can get accomplished on a day-to-day basis, so any time I feel like I am doing less than what I could be doing, I get really down on myself.
I recognized that there is a pattern to my productivity levels depending on the temperature outside. On the cooler days of late fall, winter, and early spring I am able to get more done every day. It isn’t perfect or guaranteed, I am just more likely to get everything done that I want.
But once late spring, summer, and early fall hits, when the really hot and humid days sink in, I find that I am lucky to get more than two major things done on my to-do list. Most days require me taking a nap and if I push myself through it (and therefore too hard), I won’t get anything done past a certain time in the day.
Weekends are the hardest. I am so worn out chasing Jai around all week that when I get the opportunity to stay in bed for most of the day while Ash does the “heavy” lifting, I do. And then very little gets done on my to-do list.
There is a definite correlation between my productivity and the weather.
And I am not imagining it.
Heat & MS
It’s well-known that MS and heat do not go hand-in-hand. Many other MS patients find that the heat can be particularly draining, possibly due to electrical connections between neurons no longer being efficient from the heat. Because of this, flare-ups are more common, especially for those who suffer from spasticity.
In researching this post, I learned something I didn’t know: prior to MRIs and other efficient tests to diagnose MS, patients were submerged in hot water baths to gauge their symptom reactions to the heat.
I find this fact particularly interesting considering my intense love of hot, hot showers. Ash does not understand why I love them so much. And now I don’t know why I love them so much, I don’t find that it affects my body in a negative way, in fact, I find them extremely relaxing and soothing. I should try some lower-temperature showers to see how it impacts my energy level for the day. I may be negatively impacting my productivity in favor of a hot shower.
The recommendations by medical professionals are for MS patients to avoid the heat and humidity as much as possible. Some recommendations go so far as to tell patients to move to better climates. This is all well and good, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, not economically feasible, or we don’t want to let the weather affect our social plans.
Staying Cool & Chill in the Summer
Summer is unavoidable, especially the heat – so what can a person with MS do? The good news is that any symptoms you feel due to the heat are typically temporary and are inconvenient.
But there are ways to beat the heat so MS doesn’t always impact your summer plans. These aren’t 100% guaranteed to work, but they might help slow or lower the impact on your MS symptoms.
- Staying in the A/C when possible and when it isn’t, finding a shady or breezy area
- Want to exercise? Do it in the morning or late evening when the outside temperature is cooler. This is good even if you workout inside (it will be more pleasant to leave the gym in cooler temperatures than blazing ones)
- Wear loose, light, and light-colored clothing. This will help reflect the heat and keep air circulating closer to your body
- Cooling cloths* for when you are going to spend a lot of time out in the heat, great for sporting events and festivals
- Participate in a cooling program for free products or more information on great products out there to cool you down
- Stay hydrated with water as much as possible*. Getting dehydrated will increase your chances of flare-ups and make them worse
- Cooling showers before and after any outdoor activities. Instead of blow-drying your hair, allow it to air dry as the evaporation will help keep you cooler longer
- Choosing cold drinks over hot ones during the summer months. Getting a reusable insulated bottle that will keep water/drinks cold for hours will help
There are plenty of other sites out there with great lists and tips on keeping yourself cool in the summer. So if you’re like me and moving to cooler weather all year round is not feasible, using the suggestions on these lists will help you beat the summer heat without letting your MS get in the way.
- MS Focus Magazine: “13 Tactics to Beat the Heat“
- NMSS: “COOL IT! Beat the Heat“
- Polar Products: “Cooling for Multiple Sclerosis and other Heat Intolerant Conditions“
- Everyday Health: “Cooling Products for Multiple Sclerosis“
- Everyday Health: “Staying Cool with Multiple Sclerosis“
How do you keep cool in the summer either with MS or without it? What do you recommend others try to beat the summer heat?
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography