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Heat Sensitivity

Many people with MS become quite sensitive to the heat, particularly during the summer. An elevated core body temperature, of as small as 0.5 degrees, (whether from illness, heat, or activity) can alter the effective conduction of nerve impulses. This can result in a feeling of fatigue, as well as a temporary worsening of other symptoms.

Refraining from becoming over heated and keeping the body cool with the liberal use of air conditioning, wearing cooling garments (specially designed to lower body temperature) or other cooling strategies may help to manage heat sensitivity and resulting symptoms. Symptoms will usually subside once nerves are returned to normal temperatures.


Tips for staying cool

You may wish to consider some of these tips to keep cool and manage heat sensitivity:


Water and Nutrition

  • Increase your fluid intake by drink more water, add a couple of extra glasses than normal as you will loose fluids through perspiration.
  • Limit caffeine as this can dehydrate!
  • Apart from the initial brain-freeze sucking ice-cubes can be very helpful! With all the berries that are around for the summer season why not put one in each of the cube slots, top with water, freeze away and then when it comes time to cool down you get a delicious treat at the end!
  • Freeze water bottles to carry with you during the day. They will stay cool even as they melt to hydrate you.
  • When choosing your meals consider options that don’t overwork your body trying to digest.



  • Cooling collars and vests are a great way to keep cool.
  • For an instant cooling collar put some frozen veggies (still in the bag), wrapped in a tea towel around your neck or try freezing a bandana, scarf or tea towel.
  • Cotton is cooler!
  • Keep your head covered. Wide brimmed hats are particularly useful as they can help prevent you from burning your head, neck and face in this intense New Zealand sun but also keeps you cooler! Hats with ventilation such as a woven hats will allow the breeze to pass through and cool you down while darker colours under the brim can help protect your eyes from the suns reflections.
  • When you put your fan on put a damp towel around your shoulders to cool down quicker.



  • Only go outside when necessary. Vitamin D is great but in these extreme heats when you do go out be SUN SAFE!
  • Frozen water bottles have multiple uses! They are great for a cooling drink throughout the day but also try rolling one under your feet, backwards and forwards. Don’t forget to put a towel down or you might get a very wet floor!
  • Hang your washing out in the cool of the morning or evening so you don’t have to go out in the hot sun of the day and then bring it in at night.
  • Do you find that applying sunscreen it makes you feel hotter and more flustered? A spray sunscreen might be easier. There are a couple of products out there in the market place that you don’t need to rub it in, they’re lightweight and cools and revives skin on contact.
  • When you’re heat sensitive it can be difficult to maintain your daily routine, particularly your exercise routine. If you do want to exercise do so in the early morning or evenings when it is cooler and try yoga, tai chi or a gentle walk with a friend rather than a run. Better yet try an aqua based exercise such as a swim or aqua jogging? And always remember to stretch and cool down.
  • Pre-plan! Have some wet and chilled sports bands ready to put on your wrists when you get home to cool down your body and then have a shower when you feel comfortable.
  • Can you chop the veggies in the cool of the morning or evening the day before and refrigerate. Just make sure they are covered and sealed. Air tight containers keep things fresher for longer. Or check out the freezer aisle at your local supermarket. Pre-chopped frozen veggies save you time and energy (plus it means you can stand in front of the freezers to cool down!)
  • Try to de-stress as this will make you overheat more.
  • Plan breaks somewhere cool particularly in the hottest part of the day.


Need more help?

  • If you are really struggling and need more ideas contact your Regional MS Community Support Staff for advice.
  • If you would like medical advice contact your local GP
  • If you need urgent medical attention call 111 immediately.


Cold can also be a problem

Some people with MS also find that their symptoms can become worse in cold weather. This is most notably spasticity. People with MS who are sensitive to temperature are recommended to avoid temperature extremes and take precautions to minimise the risks. Anyone considering a move to a “better” climate should visit first to see if the climate change is, indeed, beneficial.



Managing your MS symptoms when things heat up – MSNZ webinar with Gilly Davey


This information does not constitute as medical advice and you should always seek this from your GP or other health care provider.