We are officially in the throws of winter up here in the North East! It’s been freezing, gross and dreary, very winter like. We’ve had our share of snow storms so far as well. I grew up in Ohio, and we got hit with Lake Effect snow almost round the clock during the winter, so I am no stranger to snow squalls and cold temperatures. But that does not mean that I enjoy them. I down right hate them in fact. I am a summer lover. Actually spring lover now, but that’s another story.
It’s well known that heat and MS are not pals. Heat can exacerbate MS symptoms quicker than anything. So you’d think that us MSers would love when winter comes around, right? Nope. Winter and cold temperatures are just as hard on us as heat, just for other reasons.
Cold temperatures bring on their own group of issues. Cold can bring on increases in pain, stiffness and spasticity. If you experience the ‘MS hug’ you may find that it gets worse in winter months. Some people actually experience more fatigue in the winter, possibly from dealing with the muscle symptoms mentioned above or an increase in depression, another MS symptom. Something else that often occurs in the winter (and it happens to me ALL THE TIME) is Raynaud’s Phenomenon. This is when either the tips of your fingers or toes lose circulation and turn white then blue when cold. When they eventually warm up, blood returns, but it is very painful.
As with most other things that come with MS, the reason behind why we are affected by cold so much isn’t well known. However, there is new data is coming out constantly about how Vitamin D levels effect individuals with MS and developing MS. It looks like Vitamin D levels do have something to do with relapses, their severity and how symptoms are experienced. Since Vitamin D is obviously lower in the winter months, this may have something to do with why symptoms are experienced at higher levels during winter months when Vitamin D is at it’s lowest in our bodies.
So what can we do about our symptoms RIGHT NOW?
Glad you asked!
- When you need to go outside, cover up! Getting the appropriate outer wear is necessary. Having a heavy duty coat, gloves and hat is key.
- Find good boots. Having quality boots during the winter is so important. If you’re going to be outside for ANY length of time, you need something on your feet that is waterproof, going to keep you warm and comfortable.
- Warm up from the inside out: Grab a mug of your favorite warm beverage, this is my number one way to warm up fast. My neurologist also said that drinking a hot (or cold) beverage is the fastest way to change your core body temperature. It’s science!
- Make sure you are eating throughout the day. Eating regularly will help your body to stay fueled and working properly. Soup, warm dishes are great options in the winter!
- Stay active. Sweating might not be number 1 priority during the winter, but it can help warm your body AND help with tight, spasming muscles. Engage in your favorite exercise and it will help you all around.
- Don’t over do the heat. Taking a hot bath or shower might be really tempting, and sometimes feel good for a few minutes, but eventually it may have the opposite effect and turn on you. Heat can be not friendly too.
- Get some sun! It may seem like it’s not doing anything, but even a little bit of mid-day sun can go a long way, especially in these dreary winter months.
- Have fun! This is the hardest for me. I hate winter, so finding things to do that are fun is hard for me. But finding things to do that can keep my spirits up is so important. That can be going to the movies, a new museum or even the mall to get out and walk a bit.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If it is really cold, or really icy, don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you get somewhere, or grab somethings from the store for you.
Although cold weather and MS don’t get along, just as we do with heat, if we are careful and plan around our day, we can get through it all just fine!
What are somethings that you have found that have helped with dealing with the cold?
Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.