All winter I wait until the blooms begin to bud and the warm weather arrives. I love sitting outside enjoying the stillness of nature – flowers, birds, and my cats lazily sleeping on our deck in the sunshine. I sometimes reminisce about the lazy summer days of my youth, when I bicycled around town, ran through our sprinkler with the neighborhood kids to cool off in hot weather or spent endless days with my friends at our town pool. Those memories keep me warm on a cold winter’s night; sometimes they seem as if they happened yesterday, other times they seem like a few lifetime’s ago.
After being diagnosed with MS I haven’t been able to think about summer the same way. Bicycle? I am unable to use my old 10-speed bike. (I now have renewed hope to once again ride a bike. A friend of mine purchased a bicycle designed for people with disabilities). Running? I haven’t done that since before my diagnosis; my legs won’t cooperate with what my brain wants me to do. Swimming? Well, that is something I can do, but I’ve been reluctant to do so. I’ve used every excuse in the book – “I don’t have a bathing suit” or “The water is too warm” or “I’m not in the mood” or “I can’t find a pool near me that I can join.”
As much as I love everything summer represents – lazy days at the beach, consuming easy-to-read romance novels, barbecuing and picnicking outdoors, the sound of crickets – the heat and humidity of summer can send my MS into a tailspin. I try to take walks whenever I can - I adore walking outside where I can be a part of nature. But on those icky, sticky summer days where the humidity is simply unbearable, I have to stick close to my air-conditioned house in order to keep cool. There’s an unpleasant irony to that, and one that greatly affects my mood. I awake each morning and (on most days) see the sun shining, knowing that another summer day beckons me outdoors. Whether it’s my achiness or a sinus headache or taking a step outdoors, my body quickly reacts to the heaviness that fills the air. My legs start to tingle, I feel lightheaded and weak at the knees. It’s maddening. I want to be outside!
People with MS have many options at their disposal to help get through the heat of the summer. Here is a short list of what they are:
- Cooling vests for necks, wrists, ankles and body, all available for sale online.
- Drinking 64 oz. (eight full glasses) of cool water per day.
- Limiting outdoor activities to early in the morning or late afternoon/early evening. Try making a list of your daily priorities and set a daily schedule for yourself. I enter my activities onto my Google Calendar and sync it to my cell phone. I set reminders on the calendar and set up a ringtone on my cell phone to remind me of my various activities. The reminders can be set in increments of minutes, hours, days, etc.
- Choose your favorite beverage (I’ve used lemonade and cranapple juice) and freeze them in ice cube trays. You can either suck on them as you would a piece of candy, or place them in a glass of water. This is both refreshing and cooling.
- If you do have to go out, try to park your car in a shaded spot and as close to where you will be as possible.
These common sense tips are meant as options to help you have an enjoyable summer without the worry of experiencing any issues with your MS. Here are some more summer tips from The National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Please share your story about how you deal with the inevitable hot and humid summer weather. Sharing stories enables us to learn from each other. I’d love to hear what you have to say!
Published On: May 29, 2012