Relapses, flare-ups, attacks, exacerbations. No matter what they’re called, they’re something that anyone with multiple sclerosis (MS) wants to avoid — or at the very least, recover from quickly.
Relapses come and go without any warning. They also vary from person to person, so treating or managing them is often a process of trial and error.
We asked the folks in our Living with Multiple Sclerosis Facebook community to share ‘go-to’ home remedies and treatments that they depend on during relapses. Here’s a sampling of what works for them, what the experts say, and how these different approaches could benefit you.
Corticosteroids are considered a first-line treatment for severe MS relapses. A severe relapse is defined as an exacerbation that interferes or affects a person’s day-to-day life. Corticosteroids are thought to suppress the immune system and ease inflammation. This can help you recover from a relapse or help reduce its intensity.
Corticosteroids are powerful drugs. It’s important to talk to your doctor, neurologist, or healthcare team about what you can expect before you start taking them. Common side effects include depression, confusion, and changes in sleep patterns and eating behaviors.
Heat sensitivity is considered one of the most problematic side effects for people with MS. Staying cool, whether by drinking water, using a cooling vest, or taking a cold shower, can provide some relief.
During the hotter months, it’s also best to avoid going outside between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., when it’s typically warmest. If you have to be outside during these hours, try a “pre-cooling” technique by soaking in a cool bathtub. This will lower your core body temperature. These tricks won’t treat a relapse, but they can ease your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.
Getting the proper amount of sleep and time to relax is important for everyone, but especially for anyone experiencing an MS relapse. Having MS is physically and mentally draining, so taking a time out and putting yourself first is essential.
Of course, getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done. Sleep disorders are significantly higher for people with MS. However, healthy sleep habits may help prevent sleep disorders. They can also help alleviate common symptoms of MS, such as fatigue, depressed mood, and memory problems.
If you’re having problems falling or staying asleep, try one of these tips:
- Establish a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on the weekends.
- Avoid physical activity or exercise two hours before bedtime.
- Buy a comfortable pillow and mattress.
- Get outdoors and experience daylight whenever possible.
Essential oils are the foundation of aromatherapy, an ancient practice that uses plant extracts to aid mental and physical healing.
While using essential oils won’t necessarily halt an MS relapse, they may help you feel better. Research shows that aromatherapy can improve sleep quality, encourage relaxation, and improve your mood and overall well-being.
Lavender, ginger, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and peppermint are just some of the most commonly used essential oils. Each of these oils has a different purpose. Talk to your doctor before using any oil to see which are best for you.
While there’s no single, perfect diet for people with MS, eating certain foods can provide you with strength and fuel your body with valuable nutrients. This can be particularly helpful for getting over a relapse.
Focus on filling your plate with foods that are high in protein but low in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Drinking water throughout the day is also very important for staying hydrated and preventing bladder or bowel problems.