Managing My MS in the Summer Heat

Managing My MS in the Summer Heat

Summertime in Washington

I have always loved the summer months in Washington, being outside in the warm sunshine, getting fresh air. As a kid, I would spend hours playing outside in the backyard, going in the pool, making these huge chalk villages with the neighbor kids that we would later ride around and play pretend with. In my teen years, I lathered up with oil and just baked in the sun for hours with my sister. Yes, I now know that that was not the smartest idea and I go to a dermatologist regularly in fear of skin cancer. But, I love the summer months even more now getting to go outside and play and explore with a toddler. There is something so refreshing about going outside to play chase, roll down grassy hills, explore bugs and worms, and dig in the dirt. The only downside to all of this fun in the summer sun is that the heat seems to be bothering me more this year than in the past. I am not sure if it is because I am more aware of how heat impacts MS or if it truly is just making things harder for me. 

Heat Impacts MS Symptoms

Did you know that when you have MS, even a small rise in body temperature, about .5 degrees F, can make your symptoms worse? (Source: Web.MD) Things like warm weather, hot showers, a heavy meal, and exercise can temporarily impact my symptoms. Similarly, stress, fatigue, and infections can cause my symptoms to get worse for a short period of time. It is important to note that symptoms can flare without being a relapse at times. It is only considered a new relapse if you have symptoms that do not go away within 24 hours and if it is 30 days from your previous relapse. The winter months aren’t quite as bad for me, even though there are things that cause a rise in body temperature frequently, it is easier to cool off quickly. During the summer months, if it is warm outside, it is likely that my body temperature is going to get warmer too.

So even though I love the heat, it is sort of a double-edged sword. If I let myself get too hot, then I am going to start to notice my eyes getting blurry. Sometimes, I feel some fatigue, but not always. I feel lucky right now though. The heat doesn’t really take me down in any sort of way, just more of a nuisance. I know that there are some people with MS that struggle to get out of bed or do anything other than sit down and try to cool themselves off.

Ignorance is Bliss

Maybe ignorance truly is bliss? When I didn’t know I had MS, my eyes still got blurry in the heat, but it wasn’t always on my mind that I might be getting another relapse. I just dealt with it and it became normal to me. Now that I know that I have MS, when my eyes flare-up, I worry that I am going to have another relapse. Sometimes it spikes my anxiety levels until I realize it is just the heat. We are also lucky enough to have a few air conditioning units in our rooms so if I ever get too overheated and start to feel “off” I can go hang out in one of the bedrooms for a bit. 

It will be interesting to see as time goes on if I dread the summer months or still find ways to enjoy them. I hope that I will enjoy them and be thankful for the sunshine and nicer weather. We only get a few months of the year to truly enjoy the sunshine!