Heat sensitivity can affect us all differently

red sky at night spainMany people were amazed when they heard that Lisa and I were packing our bags and leaving the UK and moving to Spain where we arrived last November. It wasn’t just the move that took them by surprise, it was the fact that we were moving to sunny southern Spain. To Andalucía to be exact.

“How will you cope with the heat?” was a question that has been asked many times since we announced our plans to move. It’s a reasonable question bearing in mind that heat sensitivity is a common feature of multiple sclerosis. That’s when people with MS can often experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms during very hot or humid weather.

Of course, we know that it is not just weather, it could be because of overheating by taking a hot shower or taking excessive exercise.

Heat sensitivity can cause some people to experience a temporary increase of their usual symptoms. Exhaustion and lack of balance are just two things of many that can get considerably worse.

These temporary changes can result from the very slightest increase in body temperature; it can be as small as one-quarter of a degree. And, speaking technically, higher temperatures further reduce the ability of a demyelinated nerve to conduct electrical impulses, so making symptoms worse.

In my case, I guess that it is good fortune that my heat sensitivity is not about extremes of hot or cold but the speed and frequency of changes between ordinary hot and cold. Although the UK is not renowned for extreme weather, temperatures can vary widely from day to day-

So moving to Spain has taken me to a more constant, less changeable environment. So, while it may be hotter, it is more comfortable for me.

It also comes with many more hours of sun.  In fact, here we tend to talk about days of sun here. And that brings a great increase of naturally-created vitamin D.

MS or not, life in Spain is pretty sweet with an air-conditioned home, with additional ceiling fans, nestled among palm trees, as well as trees bearing olives, oranges and grapefruits. Oh, and yes, I drive an air-conditioned car.

6 thoughts on “Heat sensitivity can affect us all differently

  1. I am in the Sunshine State where at nigh the temperature plummets to 80. My husband I rush to the outdoor pool before 7:00. The water has cooled to 90. I don’t push hard and only swim for 35 minutes. Swimming is good but not in a bathtub. Honestly, the neurologist insisted that j give up baths. I feel a little reckless just getting in. Cold water is more refreshing, but causes spasms. M S Sucks!


  2. Hi Ian
    Very interesting idea, that it is the rate of change of temperature, rather than the temperature itself, that causes the problem.
    Early after diagnosis of PPMS, I went to a ‘wellness centre’ at Centre Parcs. Thought it would be beneficial. Wrong! Half killed me. Likewise, a hot bath can be detrimental. But my wife has been given a studio between Malaga and Marbella. I have been out there once, for a week. But perhaps I should try it for longer? Probably not a good idea to go out in the middle of summer, but an extended stay, for medical reasons, seems reasonable.


    • Hello Phil, we are all different and are all affected in different ways. The rate of change is just what I have found but, like you getting overheated in a shower is a ‘no no’ too. Day to day living at 30C hasn’t been a problem, although I did arrive in November and so have worked up gradually. In fact, while my mobility is about the same, my left hand is showing some signs of improvement so, hopefully, I might see further improvements.


  3. I am in Northern California, East of Sacramento.
    Summers are hot here, from mid June to mid September, I have to be very careful.
    The best way to deal with the heat is to stay away from the sun as much as possible, stay inside with AC and fans at a very constant temperature.

    Also I am a big time motorcycle rider (I ride a Canadian made three wheeler).
    Every year I ride the country, once at the spring and once at the fall, the two best windows in order to have a nice weather (a weather I can handle).
    Sometimes, it gets too warm then I stop. I go to a motel and turn the AC on to take a nap.
    Knowing that the day after is still going to be too hot for the season, I organize myself in order to hit the road early the morning (6AM) and to stop somewhere around 3PM max before it gets too hot.
    Of course I choose my destination accordingly to the season meaning don’t go South after the end of May…

    As long as I respect this schedule, I still can go pretty much everywhere.
    Last year I went all the way to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and this year, in September I plan to go to the Canadian National Parks in Alberta.

    On the road, most of the time there is no shade. I try to avoid as much as possible direct exposure to the sun by always wearing a thin jacket at least to protect my skin from the sun.

    For sure the heat is killing me and if I’m not very careful, I end up so wick that I can walk at all.


  4. The heat is like everything else for people with MS, it can’t be ignored, especially if you are in a country where the temperatures can be extremes.

    However if you still want to enjoy the outdoors, it is very important to be well organized and to know your limits.
    For example, I want to stay in some areas where the temperatures won’t go too much over 85F.
    I want to avoid as much as possible direct exposure to the sun and in order to do that, I wear protections (jacket, hat, etc…).
    Also I will always pick the routes in the highest altitude than the routes in the valleys, even if it is longer because I know that it is going to be always cooler.
    I know that the hottest times of the day are between 3:30 and 5, so in a hot day I must be inside by 4:00 at the latest.


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