What's in Your Relapse Survival Kit?

Patient Expert

Are you feeling more tired lately with MS symptoms acting up a bit? Have you been overdoing it? You suspect that a full-blown relapse is coming on, but it's hard to tell at first as sometimes your relapses take a week or so to really get going. Or maybe, you simply wake up one morning and can't walk, or can't see, or can't do something else important.

Bam A relapse has begun. What are you going to do about it?

Pull out your “MS Survival Kit” and put it into action so that you can concentrate on allowing your body to heal.

The Basics:

  • The ability to ask for help.
  • Treatment for the relapse.
  • Time to rest your body.
  • Patience.

Build your back-up team:

  • Make a list of all your activities, responsibilities, and obligations in a typical two to four week period of time. Some examples might include preparing meals, grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning, yard maintenance, carpooling, work, work-related or social projects, attending children's activities, caring for pets, etc.

  • Think of people around you (including your family members) who would be willing to step in if asked. Add their name(s) next to each activity; include their phone number and email address.

  • Contact each person on your list, telling them that you are planning ahead in the event that an MS relapse occurs. Ask them if they would be willing to help with specific item(s) on your list.

  • Try to spread out the extra responsibilities among several individuals. Keep in mind that it will take more than just a couple of people to do everything which you normally do during a typical week.

  • Keep this list handy, such as taped to the refrigerator or in your wallet. Make sure that the list is convenient as you may need someone else to help activate your backup team.

Stockpile supplies:

  • Keep easy to prepare foods in the cupboards and freezer. Packages of frozen vegetables have many uses especially in creating easy soups. Cans of soup (low sodium), kidney beans or lentils, stewed tomatoes, and spaghetti are also very handy to have around.

  • With the same idea in mind. Get into the habit of preparing meals and freezing portions for future use.

  • During steroid treatments, it is important to have plenty of fluids to drink. Drink mixes are handy to have around. However you should avoid processed foods (including crackers) which are very high in sodium.

  • Make sure that you always have plenty of toiletries on hand so that you do not need to make extra trips to the store while you are home recuperating.

Seek medical treatment:

  • Add your neurologist's phone number to your back-up team list. Call the doctor's office to schedule an appointment as soon as you think that you are in a relapse.

  • Be prepared to receive three to five days intravenous steroids.

  • If you do need steroids, drink plenty of fluids, eat potassium-rich foods, avoid process foods, and do not make any big decisions.

  • Know that steroids may cause insomnia and mood swings.

Pace yourself:

  • Plan to take at least two weeks off from work and other obligations, especially if you require steroids. Although you may begin to feel better quickly, take it easy.

  • If you need physical therapy to regain strength and coordination, pace yourself and work steadily. Do not try to overdo it too soon.

Keep in mind that if you involve members of the family in every day responsibilities, it will be easier to engage them during your times of most need. My brother (who is an expert in child psychology) often says that it is important to not do things for children which they are capable of doing for themselves. It may take longer for the immediate job to be accomplished but the lifetime rewards are worth it for you and them.

Be patient:

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is characterized by ups and downs. Be patient that the relapse will end. Life will get back to normal. You may have new symptoms and disabilities, but you will overcome each challenge as it occurs.

You are stronger than MS!** Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.**