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7 Tips for Keeping Cool with MS in the Heat

Written by Robin Madell | Published on February 13, 2007
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on February 13, 2013

Too Hot to Handle

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) and are taking a hot shower, spending time in the sun, or even just preparing a meal on the stove, you may find your symptoms flaring up. This is because MS can cause nerves to lose their conductive coating—also known as a myelin sheath—often making them more sensitive to heat and temperature changes.

When this happens, an increase in symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, and increased heart rate may soon follow. To avoid these problems, read on for seven heat-beating tips.

Tip 1: Stay In

It may sound like a no-brainer, but as we move toward the warmer months, it can be smart to stay indoors in the air conditioning to help keep MS symptoms in check. Tune in to the forecast. Cancel plans for outdoor outings and chill out at home on days when the mercury starts climbing or high humidity is predicted.

If you don’t have air conditioning in your house, a trip to the movie theater or mall may help you beat the worst of the heat.

Tip 2: Use Cool Products

There are a number of cooling products to choose from on the market. Cooling vests, neck wraps, and bandanas can be cold-treated to help you beat the heat—especially during exercise and outdoor activities. Cooling packs meant for picnic coolers can double as devices that you can use to dab on your neck, forehead, and wrists.

Don’t underestimate the value of simple products, such as a cloth hat dipped in water to cool your head.

Tip 3: Enjoy an Icy Beverage

Who doesn’t enjoy a cold drink on a hot day? When you have MS, the cooling power of liquids can come to the rescue. For temporary relief, try ice-cold options like popsicles, ice water with lemon, or good old-fashioned iced tea.

Freeze a plastic bottle filled with water and keep it by your bed at night. This will allow you to cool down without having to get up and fish through the fridge for a refreshment.

Tip 4: Cool in a Pool

Benefit from spending time in a cool pool (lower than 85 degrees Fahrenheit). Keeping water temperature low will give you a chance to swim or do water exercises without worrying about increasing your core temperature too much in a warm pool.

For added cooling power, keep your swimsuit on after you leave the pool. A wet bathing suit helps keep your temperature low when you’re out of the water. 

Tip 5: Plug in the Fan

Equipment need not be fancy to be effective. An oscillating fan that can be moved between different rooms in your home can provide fast relief when you feel too warm.

Turn on the ceiling fan when you’re taking a shower or bath, as this can help circulate air in the bathroom and keep you cooler.

Tip 6: Lighten Up

Clothing choices can make a big difference. Think layers when you get dressed. That way, you can remove layers as necessary to decrease your body temperature. When you’re outdoors, it’s especially important to wear loose, lightweight clothing that’s considered “breathable.”

Breathable clothing is made from fabric designed for air to flow through it and keep you cool. Water-resistant, synthetic materials such as acetate tend to hold in heat as they keep out water. Opt for clothes made of cotton, linen, silk, and modal (a type of rayon).   

Tip 7: Turn It Down

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suggests keeping the temperature of your tub water much lower than your body temperature. If in doubt, use a thermometer to check your temperature and the water’s temperature. While this may seem like a small detail, the VA notes that even a slight increase in your body’s core temperature—as little as a half-degree Fahrenheit—can lead to heightened MS symptoms (VA, 2011).

Add It Up

There’s no one right way to stay cool: as you can see, there are many ways to help circumvent heat intolerance. The important thing is to take extra precautions. Change up your strategies depending on the situation and your symptoms and talk to your doctor for guidance on how best to treat your particular condition.

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