My routine for dealing with MS and heat sensitivity while traveling

A trip to a hot destination requires a good plan to stay cool

Susan Payrovi, MD avatar

by Susan Payrovi, MD |

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A trip to Taiwan this summer has been years in the making for our family. Our kids have been in Mandarin immersion since preschool, so when their school offered a three-week program for true immersion in Taipei, we jumped at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But dang it is hot and humid here. The 90 F weather with humidity is testing this Californian’s limits. (I live on a cold mountain back home.) I was concerned about how my travel buddy, multiple sclerosis (MS), would navigate this steam oven called Taipei, so I came up with a few routines to make sure it didn’t get in the way of me and Taipei.

Firstly, wherever I travel, I prefer to explore by foot to get close to the people and culture. With Taiwan being so hot, walking two to four hours a day is extra challenging. I avoid the midday heat by heading out in the early morning or late evening hours. It’s hot no matter when you go out, but it’s more tolerable during the bookends of the day.

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Next, spandex and clothing with artificial materials did not make the cut when packing for this trip. Free-flowing cotton, linen, and bamboo pieces are my staples. I’m even wearing long sleeves to throw off any mosquitoes that may have their eyes on me. I’ll admit to not missing those tight, oppressive yoga pants when there’s a river flowing down my face. I also gave up on shading my face with a hat because my head overheated. Instead, I cross to the shady side of the street where it’s noticeably cooler.

I’m also drinking and peeing nonstop. Cold or ice water to fill my water bottle is nonexistent because warm and hot water is what they prefer here. I finally understand why my Iranian parents insist on drinking hot, scalding tea in the summer to cool down. Once you break into a sweat, you’ve just turned on your body’s AC system and you’ll cool down.

When things get really heated, I steal a little AC by walking into a Taiwanese 7-Eleven, Family Mart, or anywhere with air conditioning. It’s only a temporary reprieve, because as soon as you step back onto the street, you’re right back where you started.

Pursed lip breathing has been a savior, helping me inhale cool air. To do it, just roll in the sides of your tongue toward the center (yes, it feels awkward) and breathe through barely open lips. It works!

With the above routine, I haven’t felt the need for those battery-powered fans. If I were more heat sensitive, I might invest in a cooling vest.

Proactive steps

I’ve noticed that I’m now more heat-resilient than ever before. It’s partly my mindset, but I’ve also noticed that with regular exercise and good sleep, I’m more patient with heat — both physically and emotionally.

In the last year, I’ve worked on increasing my cold tolerance by purposely underdressing in cold weather at home and taking cold showers more often, which seems to have expanded my baseline range-of-comfort temperature.

Why does all this effort and planning to tolerate heat matter?

Travel has always been one of the biggest joys of my life. Experiencing faraway people and places shifts my myopic view of the world and reminds me how big and diverse our planet is. It reaffirms that we all want the same things in life.

I have four more summers left with all three kids at home. That’s four giant opportunities to widen their lens through travel so they can experience different ways of living, thinking, and believing.

I don’t know what the future holds for this body. Nevertheless, I cling to my routines and rhythms to maintain my health so I can continue traveling with my boys. My hope is that they will grow into adults who embrace the “other” and work toward a more inclusive, collaborative, and peaceful world.


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.

Comments

Terry avatar

Terry

So inspiring! I am trying not to give up on travel. Appreciate your thoughts here.

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Susan Payrovi, MD avatar

Susan Payrovi, MD

Travel is what brings me so much joy so keeping up with my routines to be able to travel matters a lot to me too! Thanks for your message Terry!

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Anita avatar

Anita

I too am heat sensitive. I live in South Florida. Hot and humid here as well. For the most part I stay indoors in the summer but I have two dogs and they must be walked at some point. I don’t take both out at the same time because my balance isn’t great and I have one dog who can sometimes be unruly around other dogs and people. First thing that I do when I come in is rinse my arms from elbows down in cold water from the sink. Second, I dry my hair. Half my head is soaked in sweat. I dry w/ towel or paper towel and blow dry quickly to get the worst out. I do a blast of cold air at the end. Those two things really help bring my temp down and make me more comfortable.

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Susan Payrovi, MD avatar

Susan Payrovi, MD

I always wonder how people live in hot humid places like South Florida, but looks like you've got a great routine!

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