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How the Cold Affects Your MS and What to Do About It

By Daryl H. Bryant (619 words)
Posted in Living with MS on October 5, 2015

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How the Cold Affects Your MS and What to Do About It

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, you may already be aware that heat can exacerbate MS symptoms. While heat sensitivity is no secret, what many newly diagnosed patients are surprised to find out is that they are sensitive to the cold, as well.

According to the National MS Society, “some people with MS notice that symptoms, particularly spasticity, become worse in cold weather.” Others report that it can be an especially painful experience for the hands and feet. Although the effect of cold hasn’t been studied as thoroughly as heat for this disease, pain, fatigue, and cognition issues are commonly reported by those who are sensitive to the cold.

So how can you deal with the upcoming fall and winter drop in temperature? If you can relocate to a warmer locale, you’re good to go. If you’re like most people, though, you need to find a way to successfully cope and manage your symptoms even if you live in snowy Buffalo, or windy D.C. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Get some sunlight (or at least more Vitamin D)

Preliminary studies have suggested that vitamin D has a role in managing MS symptoms. Not surprisingly, if you’re trying to avoid the cold this winter, you might not be going outside a lot. If this is preventing your body from absorbing sunlight and producing Vitamin D, however, you might be doing more harm than good.

If you can, try and get outside for a few minutes during the warmest part of the day. If there’s no real “warm” when it’s subzero in January, don’t torture yourself -- instead, either invest in Vitamin D supplement pills or a light therapy lamp. These lamps are typically used to treat seasonal affective disorder, but it can be useful for those with MS as well to help stimulate Vitamin D production.

Plan ahead when you brave the outdoors

Not surprisingly, you should pay special attention to which sections of your body are exposed to the cold. Even if you’re going outside briefly, get in the habit of always having a hat and gloves on your person, or in your pocket or bag.

If you’re not doing a particularly dexterous activity, opt for mittens, because your fingers generate more heat when they’re not separated by fabric. Opt for boots that actually keep your feet warm, even if they aren’t the most fashionable pair out there.

Researching the various types of materials you can choose from, and their insulating ability for any piece of outdoor clothing can pay off in the long run. Materials like wool and down may be initially more expensive, but they can keep you warm in the coldest of weather.

Address the cold from the inside out

While many of these tips are focused on going outside when it’s cold, it can be just as difficult to cope inside if your home’s temperature is not within your control, or there are drafts throughout your home.

In this case, you can do more than just layer up; investing in better insulation is a good idea, whether that’s making sure your windows are covered, or covering your wood floors temporarily with rugs so that you don’t have to experience that cold morning walk to the kitchen.

How do you manage your MS in cold weather?

If you have MS and your symptoms are affected by cold temperatures, do yourself a favor and plan ahead for the upcoming chill this year. It will be one less thing you need to worry about and will help you better manage your MS symptoms. As always, consult your doctor if unfamiliar or worrying symptoms crop up; it could be a sign of a larger issue at play.

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