Dressing for MS

Karen O’Shea
Written by
Karen O’Shea

When I first started to write a blog about dressing with MS, I momentarily panicked. I thought to myself, ‘I’m not some kind of fashionista!’ When I came down from the ceiling, I realized it was more about the comfort and practical point of view. I will leave the fashion tips to the other bloggers. I have no doubt they would be much more glamourous than this former sheep farmer!

As people with MS, we are aware that changes of temperature can play havoc with our systems. These temperature fluctuations can cause flare-ups. Uthoffs Phenomon is the worsening of neurological symptoms when the body gets overheated by hot weather, exercise, fever or hot baths, showers, saunas etc1. Clothes can be an important part of managing sudden temperature changes to try and minimize the impact.

A useful piece of equipment for this, and hot weather more generally, is a cooling vest. You can get simple designs with cooling packs that can be put into the freezer, or you can also get battery or electrically operated vests. These are more expensive but do keep you cooler for longer. Having a fan in your house is also a life saver. (I know some houses are equipped with air conditioning but for those of us in Ireland who don’t usually get temperatures above 28 degrees Celsius, it wouldn’t be necessary!) My friend swears by tiny battery-operated fans. She keeps one on her in the summer to keep her face cool. I find them useless - I just use the air conditioning in the car personally! But I guess it’s about what works for you.

As we have been having unseasonably mild weather in Ireland, I have been reminded of the importance of layering clothes. This way you can add to or take away layers if you become too hot or cold.

When choosing clothing, try to stick to items that are 100% cotton as this will keep you cooler. Also, loose fitting clothing is your best friend. It has the advantage of keeping you cooler, is easier to take on or off and, should you have bladder or bowel issues, it’s easier to pull up and down in a hurry. I know personally buttons can be an issue for me as at times I just can’t grip that well. I find zips and touch fasteners (velcro) much easier. Also, I am a huge fan of cardigans. I wear them all year round. They are great especially when it comes to that layering I mentioned earlier.

Footwear is also very important especially when it comes to symptoms like mobility issues and loss of balance, which can worsen as the disease progresses. When you are out and about ensure footwear is comfortable. Sandals in the summer are all well and good but make sure they are not a tripping hazard. Likewise, in winter and in snowy conditions make sure boots and shoes have good grip. There are special shoe grips that can attach to your shoes that are relatively inexpensive. They have got me out of some slippery situations! I have immense respect for the ladies out there who can wear high heels. I for one cannot, so I am afraid I am the last person to give advice on the matter now. However, I can say that when I did have to wear heels, I went for a wedge effect. It allowed me to balance much more than a sky scraper heel ever could!

Whatever the weather, dress accordingly and you’ll have a good day!

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