Keep Your Cool

It’s that funny time of year in New England, when the weather can’t make up its mind. One day will be cool and cloudy, the next scorching hot and sunny. And some days present perplexing combinations of conditions. The other day, for instance, I took a bike ride with a girlfriend. Neither of us quite knew how to dress, as the day was overcast but also quite muggy and buggy. Ugh.

For those of us with multiple sclerosis, that kind of situation can pose more than the average amount of discomfort. Many of us find our MS symptoms are aggravated by the heat, and simple decisions such as what to wear on a bike ride can affect us pretty profoundly.

The National MS Society offers useful information for folks with heat-sensitive MS. I love that one of the ideas is to indulge in “icy drinks like ‘slurpees.’” I am always looking for an excuse to grab a Slurpee, especially now that my kids are grown and I can’t use THEM as my excuse!

Another of the suggestions is to exercise in a cool pool. That sounds great, and is probably a great solution for many folks. For me, though, bathing in a cool pool is likely to trigger my other chronic condition, Raynaud’s phenomenon . Our backyard pool stays pretty chilly throughout the summer, and since we don’t have air conditioning, it offers welcome respite from the heat. But when I do take a dip, I have to accept the consequences: My fingers and toes turn a waxy yellow and grow numb as the capillaries contract in response to the cold. The recovery is even worse: As I eventually warm up, usually by holding my wrists under warm water from the faucet, my fingers are splotched with purple, blue, and red. It’s ghastly.

Still, that’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. It’s a tradeoff I’m okay with making.

Do you struggle to maintain the optimal temperature for managing your MS in the summer? What are some of your strategies?

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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is