Heat sensitivity and multiple sclerosis

Heat sensitivity

The Australian summer can be very challenging for people living with multiple sclerosis.

Nerves that are damaged by multiple sclerosis can become sensitive to heat and even a small increase in temperature of 0.5ºC can temporarily make symptoms worse.

By resting and cooling, symptoms will usually settle down again once the nerves return to normal temperature. It’s important for people living with multiple sclerosis to take precautions to prevent unnecessary exposure to heat. These simple tips can help:

  • Change your fitness regime

While it is difficult to stay motivated and exercise in the heat, it’s essential to continue exercising in order to maintain muscle strength and fitness. Consider activities which are less likely to cause overheating such as swimming, tai chi and yoga, and exercising in the cooler parts of the day.

  • Cooling garments

Invest in specialist cooling garments such as vests, neck ties and hats that are designed to lower your body temperature using cooling agents. Some providers offer a discount to people living with multiple sclerosis. Call MS Connect on 1800 042 138 for more information.

  • Apply for government rebates

Energy-hungry air conditioners and fans increase energy bills during the summer months. While most providers will let you pay off your electricity bill in instalments, some states also offer energy concessions for people living with multiple sclerosis:

Health Care Card Holders in Victoria can apply for the Medical Cooling Concession — see www.dhs.vic.gov.au

Health Care Card Holders in NSW can apply for the Medical Energy Rebate — see www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au

Concession Card Holders in ACT can apply for the Life Support Rebate — see www.assistance.act.gov.au

Multiple Sclerosis Limited (MS) also runs a needs-based Financial Assistance Program to support eligible clients who are experiencing financial hardship with the costs of cooling products. For eligibility criteria and more information, contact MS Connect on 1800 042 138.

  • Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost through perspiration and evaporation. Select meals that combine lean protein, good fats, plenty of vegetables and just the right amount of wholegrain carbohydrates to keep your nutrition levels up without over-working the body during digestion.

  • Give yourself a break

Readjust your plans to adapt to the heat. Give yourself permission to leave some tasks to another day and plan rest periods for the hottest part of the day.

  • Make your fan work harder

Dampen your shirt or put a wet towel around your shoulders and stand in front of a fan to cool down more quickly. You can also lay a wet towel over you while you sleep in front of the fan.

  • Make your own cool packs

Simply fill a plastic bag with water and freeze it to make a cool pack. Wrap it in a sock or towel and place it around your neck or on your chest.

  • Freeze your bedding

Put your sheets in a plastic bag and pop them in the freezer. Put them back on the bed just before you go to sleep to keep you cooler while you drift off. There are also some new products on the market, such as ‘Chillow Pillows’ and cooling blankets.

  • Know who to call when you need help

If you’re having difficulty managing your symptoms in the heat, please seek help:

MS Connect provides free information and advice, and links you in to supports and services.
Monday to Friday, 8.30am–5pm
1800 042 138
[email protected]

If you are concerned or if you are unable to relieve your symptoms by cooling down, you should consult your GP or call 13SICK (that’s 13 7425) for a bulk-billed*, after hours doctor home visit from National Home Doctor Service. Our call centre is open from 6pm weekdays, 12pm Saturdays, all day Sunday and public holidays
* if eligible for Medicare rebates

In an emergency you should always call Triple Zero (000)

MS and National Home Doctor Service have formed a partnership to provide even more support to people living with multiple sclerosis.