The summer months are upon us, which means warmer temperatures and the potential for a worsening in MS symptoms. Fatigue is one of the more common symptoms of MS, and it can impact a person’s mood, sleep, and overall quality of life.1 As many of us know, there is a well-established link between MS-related fatigue and heat sensitivity,2 so the warmer summer months can be especially challenging for a person with MS.
Last summer, one of the MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Ashley Ringstaff, wrote about some of her trips and tricks for dealing with the summer heat. Since Ashley lives in central Texas, she is no stranger to brutally hot summers. She also has 2 very energetic children who love being outside, so staying in an air-conditioned house all day isn’t an option, even if she wanted it to be. Ashley’s recommends using cooling products (not just cooling vests), including those that are available through MSAA’s Cooling Program and Polar Products. She also uses an outdoor garden hose mister and outdoor fans when she is sitting on her porch, and she even likes the inexpensive handheld fans when she is following her boys around. She noted that staying hydrated, is of course, also extremely important.
Caregivers also understand the importance of helping a person with MS stay cool to minimize heat-related symptoms. Last summer, Patrick Leer shared his story about making lifestyle adjustments to help his wife during the warm summer months. He made sure to keep a cooler packed with water bottles and a neck cooler that he received at an MS walk. Patrick also mentioned unique considerations for planning a family vacation at the beach – he would book a room with a view of the beach so his wife could stay inside with air-conditioning and enjoy watching their daughter play outside in the sand. They even managed to find a beach hotel with an ice rink, which seemed to be made for families just like theirs!
Because heat can exacerbate MS-related fatigue, we recently asked our Facebook community if they experience more fatigue in warmer months, and how they manage MS-related fatigue. Here are some of the highlights from our community members’ responses:
Managing MS-Related Fatigue in the Warmer Months
Keeping cool using different devices
- Soak small towels in water for your neck, face and top of your head and reload it at water fountains or hoses.
- Use a cooling vest.
- Carry ice packs in your pockets with a travel sized spray bottle full of cold water.
- Carry a small damp towel in the spring and summer to help cool your head and face.
- Use Frog Togg cooling cloths.
- Wet bands that you put around your neck really help; also drink plenty of water, use air conditioners and fans.
- Take cool showers.
- Some individuals may benefit by wearing long sleeves and a hat when outside. Sweating is nature’s way of keeping you cool, so long sleeves can absorb perspiration and keep you cooler. Limiting time outside to 15- or 20-minute periods with rest in between can also help.
Consuming cold food/beverages
- Eating crushed ice throughout the day can help.
- Keeping a cold drink with you helps tremendously so you can cool yourself from the inside out. Iced beverages and popsicles help.
Other tools to combat heat-related fatigue
- Exercise helps but it is sometimes difficult to shake the symptoms to get up the energy to go exercise.
- Acupuncture and reflexology can help.
- Try to get as much done in the morning to mid afternoon.
- If prescribed by your doctor, taking a medication such as Provigil® (modafinil) that promotes wakefulness can help.
MultipleSclerosis.net moderator, Christie Germans, mentioned that she relies heavily on air conditioning as well, and she’s able to get a discount on her electricity bill due to her MS diagnosis. She recommends exploring your gas/electricity provider’s website for discounts available for medical needs. Multiple sclerosis will likely be listed in the “qualifying medical needs” list. Or, contact your neurologist’s office. You may be able to save as much as 30% on your bill! For her full response, click here.
Do you experience more symptoms in the warmer months? How do you manage MS-related fatigue?
1. Induruwa I, Constantinescu CS, Gran B. Fatigue in multiple sclerosis – a brief review. J Neurol Sci. 2012;323:9-15.
2. Marino FE. Heat reactions in multiple sclerosis: An overlooked paradigm in the study of comparative fatigue. Int. J Hyperthermia. 2009;25:34-40.