The Heat Element
Although heat will not cause flare-up or attack, heat definitely aggravates the nervous system and will cause symptoms to intensify.
Heat slows down the conduction of nerve impulses in all people, but is particularly bothersome to folks with MS. When a person without MS gets out of a hot Jacuzzi or sauna, they move much more slowly. By comparison, a person with MS might not be able to walk or stand at all. Decades ago, one test used to diagnose a person with MS was to put them in a hot bath for awhile and then see what happened! Heat can be caused by weather (especially when there is humidity), fever, room temperature, over-activity, hot flashes, being in the sun too long, etc.
So, what to do? Speed up the conduction of those nerve impulses by getting and/or staying cool. Ice packs are a favorite of mine; I put them behind my neck, my back, or rub them all over me. I carry them with me in a little six-pack cooler if I’m at an outing on a hot day. Taking a frozen plastic bottle of water in the car doubles as an ice pack and ice water at the same time. Cold ice water and showers are very effective in bringing body temperature down rapidly when overheated. One can go from not walking to walking in a matter of minutes. Air conditioning is a must. Some people use cooling vests.
Getting cool and staying cool reduces fatigue and weakness and helps the mood because you feel better. One time I was in an amusement park and in the hot afternoon I became extremely fatigued. I went to the air-conditioned infirmary for an hour and took a nap with ice packs. It rejuvenated me enough to enjoy myself the rest of the day.
In my earlier years, I used to take a cold shower before going out somewhere. It increased my walking and endurance longer.
During my first appointment with Dr. Pathetic back in 1980, he told me to stay out of the sun. When I asked why, he said just because it isn’t good for me, and moved on to another subject. After I changed neurologists, I told Dr. Excellent this comment and asked why I should stay out of the sun. He just shook his head in disbelief. He explained that since MS is an inflammatory disease, there is of course inflammation occurring. In common sense terms, he said that if you had bruised your ankle and it was inflamed, you would put ice on it—not heat! It wasn’t the sun that was bad for me, it was the heat.
I was angry at myself for being so naïve. I learned two lessons right away—the importance of gaining knowledge about MS and the importance of a good doctor who understood MS.