People living with Multiple Sclerosis, who are triggered by temperature sensitivity may be struggle in the cold.
Although it is more common to experience sensitivity to heat, colder temperatures can still have a negative impact. So, what can people living with Multiple Sclerosis do to stay warm at home without ratcheting up their heating bills?
Implications of cold sensitivity
Just like hot temperatures, the cold can influence how fast electrical pulses can pass on ‘messages’ from the brain, which can increase symptoms for some people with MS. This is generally caused by the damage done to nerves by MS, known as lesions. Lesions can affect people in different ways, such as via impairments to shivering – an automatic response to cold, which enables the body to warm up again. Of course, not being able to shiver means some people with MS may be more susceptible to the impacts of being cold.
Symptoms may worsen for some people, and can include nerve pain and sensations like burning, numbness and tingling. As well as, but not limited to spasticity, spasms, depression and fatigue. Being cold is tiring for anyone, but for people living with MS fatigue, this can add to feelings of exhaustion.
But this can be combatted!
Of course, there are obvious ways to combat this, such as keeping out of the wind and draughts and keeping feet and hands warm. Other methods include putting on extra layers, using hot water bottles, consuming hot food and drink, and moving around to create heat. However, for some people living with MS, mobility can be challenging, especially on icy pavements. Yet moving as much as you can, will help to reduce muscle stiffness.
Electric poncho blankets can be very cosy and effective to keep you warm. If using a heated item such as a blanket, poncho, heat pad or hot water bottle, you may need to be careful not to get burned if MS has impacted your ability to feel temperatures.
Layers of clothes, which are good insulators, can be helpful for adjusting body temperature to whatever is most comfortable for yourself, and thermal socks, underwear and base layers, say from merino or bamboo, can be a good option if you are often cold. Fleecy gloves, hat, scarf and a good coat can also make going out much easier.
Avoiding too much alcohol is also generally important for symptom management, but also to maintain a good body temperature for the effects it has on the nervous system.
In terms of home heating, if you need to put the heating on or turn it up, then we would urge you to do so. Improving home insulation will also help make heating bills less expensive and improve the energy efficiency of your home. As in summer, keeping windows closed and closing curtains at dusk helps to keep outside temperatures out, and the heat inside. If fuel prices are a concern, there are organisations that can provide advice, such as the Energy Saving Trust and the Centre for Sustainable Energy.
We are looking for scientific researchers whose projects investigate new methods of treatment and care for people living with Multiple Sclerosis. If you are seeking funding for your project in this field, then you could apply for a grant with MS Research to complete your research. Click on the link here to find out more.