How To Cool Down with Multiple Sclerosis
People with multiple sclerosis (MS) are often sensitive to heat, and heat can worsen symptoms. Thus it is important to have ways to cool down.
Heat and humidity can cause havoc for people with multiple sclerosis, making their symptoms worse. That’s why it’s important to know how to cool down and experience some relief. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to accomplish this.
Higher body temperature and MS
When people with MS have a slightly elevated body temperature, even as little as one quarter to one half of a degree, it can worsen symptoms. Why? Because higher body temperature interferes with the ability of damaged nerves (demyelinated nerves) to conduct electrical impulses.
In a new study appearing in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, scientists evaluated whether resting body temperature is elevated in people who have relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS; 50 subjects) compared to healthy individuals (40) and those with secondary progressive MS (SPMS; 22), and if a slightly higher body temperature is associated with worse fatigue in those with RRMS.
The participants had their body temperature measured using an aural infrared thermometer. General, physical, and cognitive fatigue were measured in the RRMS patients.
The authors found that:
- Mean body temperature was higher in RRMS patients when compared with controls and SPMS patients (37.04 degrees C vs 36.83 and 36.75, respectively)
- Higher body temperature in the patients with RRMS was associated with worse general and physical fatigue but not with worse cognitive fatigue
These findings serve as just one example of the impact of a higher body temperature on individuals who have MS. The National MS Society notes that heat, including environmental or external sources of heat, usually worsen symptoms (e.g., visual problems, weakness, memory and thinking problems) on a temporary basis. Once you remove or leave the heat source, symptoms quickly resolve. Heat also does not increase disease activity.
How to cool down with MS
- Relax or swim in a cool swimming pool (less than 85 degrees F), sit in a tub of cool water, or take a cool shower
- Use fans when air conditioning is not available
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible when the weather is hot and humid. If your doctor writes a prescription for air conditioning to help manage your symptoms, the cost may be tax deductible; consult with your accountant
- Sip on cold drinks throughout the day
- Wear light, cotton or other breatheable clothing
- Use one of the many cooling products on the market. These include bandanas, vests, neckties, wristbands, baseball hats, skull pads, and work collars.
In fact, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation has a program called MSF Cooling Program, which offers these cooling products free of charge to MS patients. Anyone who is interested in the program must complete an application.
The MSF Cooling Program application cycle runs from February 1 through June 1. All applications are reviewed by a grant committee. For information about this program, call 888-673-6287.
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America also has a cooling program that is available year round. Information on how to apply for cooling products through the program is available on the MSAA website.
If you have MS, don’t get all hot and bothered! Take steps to cool down and help better manage your MS symptoms.
Multiple Sclerosis Foundation
National MS Society
Sumowski JF, Leavitt VM. Body temperature is elevated and linked to fatigue in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, even without heat exposure. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2014 Jul; 95(7): 1298-302