How to Make Summer Sizzle Without the Heat (and Symptoms)

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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Heat Sensitivity in MS | Main graphic for column titled

Summertime is synonymous with long days of warmth, coastal sunsets, boating, and barbecues. A montage of my teenage self at sailing camp, pool parties, and beach bonfires plays to Loggins and Messina, Jackson Browne, and the Eagles. The unrequited crushes on sailing instructors to my first kiss … those sacred summer seasons bore witness to my coming of age.

The irony is not lost on me.

Multiple sclerosis and summertime are incompatible. While boating soothes my soul, heat brings me to my knees — it is my kryptonite. Even mild exposure elicits problems with speech, balance, concentration, cognition, and vision. I begin to slow down until I am thick with fatigue. I must lie down. And when I do, a sick paralysis ensues. Game over.

Heat exposure symptoms are often confused with a relapse. Unlike a relapse, symptoms generally fade away within 24 hours. Many people with MS experience heat sensitivity and even heat stroke.

According to MS Focus, in 1890 Wilhelm Uhthoff noticed that people’s optic neuritis would worsen when they exercised. Later research found exercise wasn’t the trigger; rather, it was the heat and rise in body temperature. The correlation between heat and MS symptom intensification later became known as Uhtoff’s phenomenon.

It is integral that you learn how to manage and mitigate symptoms of heat exposure. The best strategy is to avoid the heat. But accidents happen. Try and prepare for them.

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! Drink up and be sure to have water bottles in your car. I emphasize water because it’s typically the healthiest way to hydrate.
  • Modify your schedule to fit the temperature. Make early morning trips to the grocery store. Walk the dog before it becomes hot.
  • Invest in my three favorite musts: a cooling towel, cooling bandana, and cooling vest. Each help to drop your core temperature, thereby mitigating risk of heat exposure.
  • Try to stay in air-conditioned areas. While expensive, the cost is well worth your health. Additionally, many U.S. states offer a medical baseline with the possibility of a discounted rate.

Discover what works for you. Don’t refuse summer. Redefine how you experience it.

My playlist transitioned from a record player to an iPod, and I bloomed from a little girl to a grown woman. But summertime will remain the season of my heart.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Mer avatar


I was advised to drink frozen drinks in the summer heat. Makes sense.

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell

What a great idea! I am going to look into that.

Thank you,

Heather avatar


This article sounds like me. I always looked forward to the summer months. Long walks on the beach followed by a swim in the ocean, hours spent working in the garden, long walks with the dog, outdoor barbecues with friends, reading outside with the sun on my face,... The list goes on and on. It saddens me to no longer be able to enjoy the things I loved. The air conditioner is on but I don’t like feeling enclosed and trapped. I find cooling vests to be bulky. My favorites are a cooling towel on my neck and a mason jar filled with ice!

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell

Hi Heather,

Thank you so much for reading and replying. It is sad to grieve that which we cannot enjoy. The ocean is a happy place for me as well. The AC is wonderful but as you point out we are contained. I try to make time for the beach and life as I sort-of knew it to be after hours. It is not the same. But it is an experience. I have met some pretty wonderful people at odd hours and seen some spectacular sunsets. I, too, like cooling towels and I will borrow that mason jar idea. Brilliant. I also like to cool myself down with large ice cubes - I drag them all over until they melt.

I appreciate thee tips and am sending you joy as you sizzle without the heat this summer.
Thanks so much,


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