Summer with MS: Essential Tips to Beat Heat Intolerance

Living with MS comes with unique challenges, and for many people, heat intolerance is one of them. As temperatures rise, some individuals with MS may experience increased fatigue, muscle weakness, and a variety of other symptoms. Read on as we explore a few practical strategies to help you navigate hot weather with MS and make the most of your summer! 

Hot weather can exacerbate MS symptoms and cause discomfort. Even small elevations in the core body temperature can have a significant impact on the demyelinated fibres (MS damages the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibres) in the central nervous system. It is essential to understand how heat affects your body and plan accordingly.  

Common symptoms that may intensify in hot weather include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle weakness, numbness, and impaired balance, but for those who experience heat intolerance, any MS symptom can be exacerbated by heat. By recognizing the effects of heat on MS, you can take proactive steps to manage them effectively. 

Here are a few tips to help keep you cool this summer: 

A man leaning and holding a water bottle.

Out and About: Strategies for Coping With the Heat 

Monitor Weather Forecasts: Stay informed about upcoming heatwaves or excessively hot days. Adjust your plans and activities accordingly, opting for indoor activities or scheduling outdoor activities during cooler hours. If you have a respiratory (breathing) condition, you may want to keep an eye on the air quality index as well. 

Clothing Choices: When dressing for hot weather, choose lightweight, breathable fabrics that allow for better air circulation and have moisture-wicking properties. Opt for loose-fitting clothing to minimize heat retention. 

Staying In: How to Keep Cool Indoors 

Optimizing Your Indoor Environment: Create a cool and comfortable indoor environment by using fans, air conditioners, or portable cooling devices. Positioning yourself in shaded areas or near open windows can help maintain a cooler space. If you don’t have access to air conditioning at home, air-conditioned public spaces like malls or libraries are good ways to spend some time cooling off, as are the cooling centres offered in some municipalities. Window tinting or blackout curtains can also be helpful. If you're in need of assistance, our Quality of Life Cooling Product Program may be of interest to you! 

Cooling Activities, Aids, and Devices: From a cool shower or bath to misting fans, there are plenty of options for personal cooling. For example, cooling vests, neck wraps, and cooling towels. They all do the same thing (help you chill out), but in different ways. Vests are particularly helpful for lowering your core temperature, helping you stay cool for longer. Some examples of Canadian cooling product retailers include Grainger and Koldtec, but there are many more that ship to Canada as well (Please note that we do not endorse any specific supplier or manufacturer). Experiment to find what works best for you! 

Hydration and Nutrition for Heat Management 

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you’re on the go, having a water bottle handy can really help! Water-rich foods like cucumber, melon, citrus fruits, or tomatoes (and more fruits and veggies generally) can also help keep you hydrated when you don’t quite feel ready to drink a ton of water. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol, however, as they can speed up dehydration!

A person doing a yoga stretch in their living room.

Exercise and Physical Activity in Hot Weather 

Modify Exercise Routines: While exercise has been shown to be helpful in symptom management, you may need to adjust your routine to avoid the hottest times of the day. Consider exercising indoors where the temperature is controlled or cooling off in a pool with swimming or water aerobics if possible. Listen to your body and pace yourself to prevent overheating. If outdoor exercise isn’t an option and you don’t have access to a cool indoor space, explore gentle indoor options such as yoga or pilates and set up a fan nearby.   

Just remember to pace yourself (it’s so important that we’re telling you twice)!  

In the summer, hot weather is a given, and the challenges for people who experience heat intolerance can be amplified. However, with the right strategies and mindset, staying cool and comfortable amidst scorching temperatures is within reach. When it comes to staying cool, you don’t have to go it alone – there are resources available, from municipal cooling centres to our Quality of Life Equipment Program. Check with your region to see what is out there! Taking proactive steps to stay cool allows us to embrace the summer months to the fullest, regardless of the temperature outside.