MS and Summer: Coping with Symptom Flare-ups

Some may like it hot. But for those with multiple sclerosis (MS), life gets more difficult when the temperature rises. Up to 4 in 5 people with MS are sensitive to heat. They may have symptoms that get temporarily worse during hot weather or with any increase in body temperature.

As summer blazes, you might notice that you get tired more easily, have blurred vision, muscle weakness, or feel shaky. It's likely worse when it's humid or when you try to exercise. Symptoms can get worse from even a slight increase in your core body temperature. Heat-related changes are generally temporary and decrease as you cool down.

Healthcare providers aren't sure why this happens. The temperature seems to affect how your nerves send messages to and from your brain. And some studies have found people with MS don't sweat as much, so their bodies can't cool down.

Beat the heat this summer with these tips:

  • Exercise indoors or in another cool area. Schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or late evening.

  • Try pre- and post-cooling to decrease the effects of exercise.

  • Don't use hot tubs and saunas.

  • Take a cool bath or a dip in the pool.

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothes. Or look for specially made cooling garments. Some cycle cool air over your skin. Others place ice packs near your body. You could also place ice packs wrapped in a thin, clean towel directly to your armpits, neck, groin, and back.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Stick to water and don't have drinks with caffeine or alcohol, which dry you out. 

  • Family and friends may not know how temperature may effect on your MS symptoms. Since symptom changes can greatly impact your quality of life, educate the people close to you so they can help you plan and enjoy summer activities.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
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