How Is Your MS Affected by Temperature Sensitivity?
“I’m too hot!” My brain was turning to mush as my body seemed to grow heavier. I could feel the energy draining out of me.
This isn’t an uncommon complaint when the weather grows hotter during the summer. Most people love warm weather and can’t get enough, but I wouldn’t exactly say I enjoy it.
On the other hand, in cold weather, my pain, stiffness, and tiredness tend to increase.
It’s a frustrating balance to keep up with temperature changes at all times, because my symptoms fluctuate so quickly. My husband becomes perplexed about my constant changing need for different layers of clothing every hour of the day.
The MS Trust estimates that 60-80% of us with MS suffer from heat sensitivity, while the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates about 10% of us have cold sensitivity. So, if you’re reading this while nodding along like a bobblehead, you’re not alone.
Cold and heat sensitivity could be due to many different factors. For example, maybe you have nerve damage in the part of the brain that controls body temperature, so your body doesn’t sweat or shiver. Reactions like sweating and shivering help to control body temperature. Without those bodily reactions, even minor spikes or falls in temperature can impact you.
For me, it’s most challenging to keep a consistent body temperature near the end of the year because some people turn their heating fully up to fight the winter cold. It’s one thing when the weather is too hot outside, and it’s another battle entirely when it’s someone’s house that’s overly warm. I feel like it’s hard to breathe!
Meanwhile, other people leave their houses super cold.
How do you manage this awkwardness? You can’t exactly say, “Sorry, Mum, I can’t come over to visit because your house is so hot that it makes me feel super nauseous!” That’s especially difficult to do around the holidays, when you’re most expected to show up.
My technique is to wear lots of different layers so I can quickly adapt to various environments. If it’s freezing outside, I’ll put on a coat over a scarf, a couple of cardigans, a sweater, and a vest top, plus multiple pairs of socks. I’ve learned it’s far easier to take layers off than to go through that embarrassing situation of being the only one wrapped in a blanket.
Organization skills are your best friend. My bag contains everything I could need in an emergency. In the summer, I make sure to carry a hand fan, water, and gum. (Check out why I have gum to keep cool in my column with tips for keeping cool.) In the winter, I’m more likely to carry acetaminophen, plenty of lip balm, an extra cardigan, and extra socks.
Are you affected by temperature? What do you do to dampen its effects on your symptoms? Please share in the comments below.
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