With springtime finally making an appearance in much of the US, summer will be upon us before you can count down from one thousand. With the summer season also comes high temperatures, humidity—capable of gluing clothing to skin as soon as you step out the front door—and MS symptoms that can knock you on your butt, literally and figuratively.
MS and Heat Sensitivity
For many people with MS, a rise in core body temperature can exacerbate symptoms such as weakness, impaired coordination or balance, fatigue, vision disturbances, cognitive problems, and more. When MS symptoms are temporarily worsened due to heat or exhaustion, it is called a pseudoexacerbation. Once the body’s temperature returns to normal, the symptoms will often recede, causing no permanent damage. People with MS who experience these types of increased symptoms due to changes in temperature or humidity are said to be heat sensitive. It is also possible to be cold sensitive.
MS Cooling Equipment One way to combat heat sensitivity is by keeping the body cool; literally chill down in the summer so you can chill out and enjoy the great outdoors. Read specific recommendations in** Strategies for Keeping Cool** to learn how to combat the heat with simple things such as light fabrics, cold water, ice, frozen items, fans, and cooling vests and equipment. For up-to-date reviews, recommendations and links to resources regarding cooling equipment, visit the ActiveMSers: Staying Active with Multiple Sclerosis website.
MS Cooling Programs Multiple sclerosis advocacy organizations want to help you deal with the summer heat and provide free cooling equipment to those who meet eligibility criteria. Different types of cooling vests, neckties, wristbands, bandanas, baseball hats, and more are available. The time to apply for these programs is** RIGHT NOW** as supplies may be limited.
The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Cooling Program opens each year on February 1st and continues through June 1st. Applications, which require income verification and a doctor’s note, can be submitted online or by postal mail. Applications are confidential and must be reviewed by the grant committee. Visit the MSF Cooling Program website or call (888) MSFOCUS (673-6287) for more information.
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America Cooling Equipment Distribution program provides cooling equipment to both adults and children living with MS. Download the appropriate application from the MSAA website; return application materials and required documentation, including income verification and a doctor’s note, to the MSAA program coordinator by postal mail. For more information, visit the MSAA Cooling Equipment website, call (800) 532-7667, or email email@example.com.
Shortly after diagnosis I applied to one of the above programs and received a cooling vest that uses soft gel ice packs in pockets, as well as neck and wrist wraps. Ten years later, I still use many of the same gel packs.
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Lisa Emrich is a patient advocate, accomplished speaker, author of the award-winning blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA, and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa uses her experience to educate patients, raise disease awareness, encourage self-advocacy, and support patient-centered research. Lisa frequently works with non-profit organizations and has brought the patient voice to health care conferences and meetings worldwide. Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.