Which symptoms get worse with cold?
MS is unique to each person living with it and there is potential for any symptom to get worse but common ones seem to be:
Nerve pain including trigeminal neuralgia, the MS hug and altered sensations such as numbness or tingling.
Mobility difficulties caused by Muscle stiffness (spasticity) and spasms can get worse. This can be particularly challenging with coupled with frosty ground.
Fatigue and depression, although this may be attributable to lack of sunlight more than the cold.
Why does it happen?
Getting cold may impact the speed at which messages can pass along nerves that have been damaged by MS in the past. This can cause the symptoms to temporarily get worse. In some cases, there may be an MS lesion in a part of the brain that controls temperature regulation in the body. Other people might have a lesion in a brain area that should respond to decreased temperature, for example, by initiating shivering so that you warm up again. Without this response, you still feel cold.
It is important that you don’t assume that cold sensitivity is always due to MS. If in doubt, consult your GP, your MS nurse or neurologist.
What can you do if cold sensitivity affects you?
- Ensure you have an adequate heating supply. Support is available through the Fuel Allowance for those eligible. Information on this support including eligibility criteria and an application form are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/00aa38-fuel-allowance/
- Maintaining a comfortable temperature is important. Wearing layers can help as the thermal insulation assists in keeping your core warm and if you begin to feel overheated you can peel back a layer or two. Hot drinks can be useful in keeping you warm from the inside, quickly warming your core.
- It is important to keep your hands and feet warm. Some people living with MS have sensory issues or another condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon, in which the extremities including fingers and toes are affected by the cold.
- Some people can experience the onset or worsening of spasticity or stiffness as a result of the cold. If this happens, it is worth discussing with your healthcare team as there are some interventions available to help treat this or there may be actions you can take at home including stretching exercises.
- Regular movement, if possible, can help to improve your circulation and minimize muscle stiffness bought on by the cold.
- Have hot food and drinks. Avoid too much alcohol as it increases blood flow to the skin which can cool you down more.
- are some interventions available to help treat this or there may be actions you can take at home including stretching exercises.
- Hot water bottles, electric blankets and heat pads can be beneficial but be careful if MS has changed how you feel temperature on your skin so you don’t get burnt.
Further information which may be beneficial can be found on this page: https://www.ms-society.ie/news/be-winter-ready