Hot or Not?

I make it no secret that Summer is my least favorite time of year. While other's slap on the oil, frolic at the beach and cruise with the top down, I stay within the confines of my air conditioned home. While you may think I'm a killjoy I beg to differ. I used to be "that" girl; the one with the convertible and killer tan to match. That was before MS. Before the time when just a short while in the hot sun greatly affected my cognition and physical state. Now before you go thinking this chick is all shades of darkness come summer think again. Of course I love a summertime glow and to ride with the wind in my hair, I just do it very carefully while keeping my core cool. And lest you think this is some psychosomatic phenom, think again.

Uhthoff's Syndrome is the worsening of neurological symptoms in MS patients where the body becomes overheated from any number of things like exercise, sun, fever, hot tubs etc. It is imperative, when you see an onset, to cool your core by removing yourself from the heat source and/or drinking water or other fluids. Ideally, keep your core cool from the start without putting yourself at risk.

Now I consider myself to be an intelligent woman and never do I intentionally put myself in harms way. That being said I had a frightful case of Uhthoff's Syndrome just two weeks ago. Just that morning I had an MRI of the brain with contrast and those who've been unlucky enough o have these repeated tests know it can be very anxiety provoking. As well, the contrast has a tendency to make one nauseous, sometimes culminating in throwing up. My anxiety was peaked when, after eight unsuccessful attempts at an IV they finally got it only for me to throw up immediately upon the entry of the contrast. Needless to say I was not excited to go back in the tube for another hour's worth of pictures. Anyway, a short while later I was finished and had expected to go home and rest, however, it was THE most beautiful day and I wanted so badly to go to the county fair. While I should have listened to that inner voice, I instead ventured out into the extreme heat and to the fair. Within one hour my drop foot became so intense that the toe of my sneaker had an indelible dust mark on it.  I could no longer walk unassisted and, while dragging my feet through the dirt, almost fell on more than one occasion. I knew what was happening so I immediately made my way to the snack shack for some water and began to head to the exit. En route home, I could barely recall the events of the morning let alone any other pertinent facts and I began to get pretty scared. It's extremely frightening to be in the throes of Uhthoff's Syndrome yet I knew the only way to get myself out of it was to get home, get cooled, get rest and get fluids on board. So that's what I did. Ultimately I did come out of it but it took three full days. Needless to say I will never again make that mistake.

The best way to deal with Uhthoff's is to never get it. Prevention is key to anything and this is no different. When you're out in the sun respect it and wear a hat or drink fluids. As well, exercise while hydrating and choose wisely when doing so outdoors. I walk my dog very early in the morning or late in the afternoon or early evening. I do take hot tubs to relax my bones, however, I keep my core above water and keep them to five minutes tops.

In essence be smart. Having MS does not mean you have to crawl into a cave for the summer months, it just means living purposely. Besides....Fall is only a few short months away!

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