MS and the changing of the seasons

It hasn’t been the simplest of MS-years, but summer is over, and autumn is gradually settling into Ireland’s magnificent sea of green parks and woodlands. Autumn is when I slowly return to life, for temperatures are dropping steadily and I can finally breathe properly again.

Uhthoff’s symptoms, particularly heat sensitivity, hit me wherever they wanted to, and the ten-day Irish heatwave intensified any symptoms it could find. Thankfully, however, it doesn’t cause permanent nerve damage, so the only harm I felt was to my psyche as I once again had to shield from blistering rays of sunshine.

While I cannot wait for winter, some people already dread the icy temperatures affecting their MS, even in those that tolerate heat. Adapting to the extremes the previous few years has, therefore, turned into something of a balancing act, and one we would rather not have.

Heat sensitivity can, for example, bring about a punch to your already low energy levels, blurry eyesight, limb weaknesses, dizziness, cognitive issues, etc.

Cold sensitivity, on the other hand, can generate increased bladder urgency, fatigue, stiffness and muscle aches and cramps making walking more difficult. Those who encounter the notorious MS hug, also known as girdling or banding, which is that tight feeling that can be felt anywhere between your neck and waistline, may feel as if they can’t breathe.

MS-related depression can worsen also, likely caused by darker days and less sunshine. Research into Vitamin D levels shows it may also impact relapses and the way we experience them. Some people may also experience Raynaud’s Syndrome, where pain, discoloration and numbness set in because of reduced blood flow to the fingers and toes.

Fluctuating weather patterns means preparation for these events becomes more frequent, so it might be a good idea to stock up on items you can use in both winter and summer. Or, find items that will last you a lifetime to avoid having to run to find new clothing.

Tips to regulate body temperature when the cold sets in:

  • Dress in layers, you can always take off a few layers if you feel too hot
  • Never forget to take a hat, gloves and a scarf with you
  • Warm up your core by drinking hot soup, coffee, tea or hot chocolate milk. Limit alcohol intake, as it might you feel warm inside, but it increases the blood flow to the skin, meaning you will feel even colder
  • Remember to keep your extremities warm
  • Sit in the sun for a while or do light exercises. Your MS will appreciate the extra Vitamin D!
  • Stretching and yoga are an excellent way to deal with your spasticity and muscle stiffness

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