should people with MS be concerned with
heat and temperature?
temperature does not affect everyone with multiple sclerosis (MS), but
people with MS at least some of their symptoms get worse when they get
This temperature effect is sometimes described as Uhthoff’s
Dr. Wilhelm Uhthoff who first described it in 1890. The worsening of
due to heat is widely recognized and very common. Studies have shown
nerves with damaged myelin are sensitive to changes in temperatures.
Researchers note that a rise in temperature may cause a failure in the
effective transmission of signals from the brain to the body (nerve
conduction), and a reduction in temperature may allow more signals to
across the damaged nerve.
may include: blurred vision
after exercise, fatigue, dizziness or a weakness in one or both legs.
exposure to heat might make fatigue worse, which might in turn make
symptoms feel worse. Although this temporary worsening of symptoms
pseudo-exacerbation) may feel like a real MS attack, the symptoms will
improve as the bodies temperature returns to normal.
or exercise related symptoms may
be brought on by activity, sunbathing, hot baths, emotion, exercise,
other things associated with an increase in body temperature. Many
MS find hot weather difficult, but, even in cooler weather, hot
even just cooking in the kitchen or using a hair dryer can sometimes be
does temperature affect people with MS?
nerve fibers from working properly – if the fibers or their protective
layer (myelin) have already been damaged by MS. Nerve fibers allow
controlling different parts of the body to move around the brain and
cord, in the form of
electrical impulses. This is known as ‘nerve conduction’.
cord, a nerve damaged by MS finds it harder to conduct these electrical
impulses. Messages may get through at normal temperatures, but they are
verge of failure. Body warming makes conduction weaker still, so some
damaged nerve fibers
stop working entirely, until they are cooled down.
your body and
take measures to cool down if you are feeling overheated.
can be done to manage
cooling methods are available
including some that are simple, such as:
baths (start with warm or tepid water and increase the coldness to
shockingly cold experience)
in front of a fan
into an air conditioned building
mini-fan in your bag
using a water spray
Unfortunately, many of
may be insufficient, uncomfortable or impractical while living a full,
life. The answer may be found in the many varieties of body cooling
made especially for people with MS. These garments include cooling
bands, neck and upper spine collars, hats and many other items.
Beneficial effects of cooling
garments have been noted in several clinical studies, and their use is
well tolerated. They can be used
preventative measures or ways to recover from overheating.
Before using any cooling garment or devise you should talk to your
health care professional.
Cooling and Multiple Sclerosis MSAA
Sclerosis Cooling Foundation
Multiple Sclerosis Society – UK
“Living with MS, newly diagnosed”