Managing the Heat & Accessible Outdoor Activities
Andrew Bouley, MD & our Hailey Leonard, LICSW, hosted a Facebook Live on Tuesday 6/7 discussing heat management & MS, as well as accessible outdoor activities!
With summer just around the corner, it’s timely to discuss managing multiple sclerosis in the heat. In addition to staying cool, we’ve compiled a list accessible outdoor activities for mild weather days.
Heat & Temperature Sensitivity in MS
Patients with multiple sclerosis often experience a worsening of symptoms in warmer weather. This worsening, brought on by heat and/or humidity is called Uhthoff’s phenomena. Even short periods of overheating can result in worsening of symptoms. People with greater physical disability may be more affected and it may take longer for their symptoms to resolve.
Outdoor heat and humidity are not the only ways to overheat; patients can also exhibit overheating from exercising, taking a hot shower, anxiety/stress, etc. Having exaggerated symptoms related to overheating, Uthoff’s phenomenon, is NOT the same as a relapse. The symptoms are almost always reversible with rest and cooling.
While these symptoms are reversable, it’s important to be mindful of time in the heat and humidity. Below are some resources for staying cool and accessible activities to enjoy the outdoors. Plan outdoor activities ahead for cooler parts of the day.
Ideas to keep cool outside include portable fans, planning outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day, staying in the shade, and wearing light weight, loose fitting clothing.
It is also very important to have access to air conditioning in your home, particularly in the bedroom and living areas. If you have difficulty accessing air conditioning, please contact ELC. The ELC Foundation and The National MS society may be able to help with funding. If you are interested in applying for funding for air conditioning, please contact our social worker, Hailey Leonard.
One way to help regulate your temperature is to utilize cooling products. Recommended cooling products for patients can be vests, scarves, or other accessories that cool the body. Some options for cooling products are listed below:
Steele Body Cooling Comfort Systems
Need help paying for cooling products? The ELC Foundation, National MS Society & MSAA have programs to subsidize some or all of the cost for cooling products.
MS Foundation Cooling Product Program: This program provides free cooling products during summer months for those who qualify by income. They also require a letter confirming your MS diagnosis. If you decide to apply through the NMSS, please email Hailey Leonard, our social worker, for a letter to accompany the application.
MSAA Cooling Program: This program provides free cooling products to those with MS who meet income requirements.
Accessible Outdoor Activities
When the weather is cooperative, it is great to be outside but can be challenging to find accessible activities. Below is a list of accessible outdoor activities. Do you have a favorite accessible activity that we missed? Please send it to us so we can add to our list!
DCR Universal Access Program: The Universal Access Program works to ensure equal access to outdoor recreation in Massachusetts state parks. DCR has an extensive list of Adaptive Programs, including hiking, cycling, rowing, kayaking, and pool programs. They also have a comprehensive list of Accessible Beach & Pool Locations.
DCR has partnered with Community Boating in Boston for an accessible sailing program.
All Out Adventures programs have a combination of specialized equipment and trained staff designed to encourage people of all abilities to enjoy the outdoors together. All Out Adventures provides opportunities to develop skills and share outdoor experiences in every season. Activities include: kayaking, canoeing, cycling, camping, and hiking. In winter they offer xc skiing, sit xc skiing, ice skating, sled skating and snowshoeing.
Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers offers a variety of in-person and virtual adaptive programming. In-person programming costs $5-20 per person; virtual group fitness costs $5; virtual yoga, including chair yoga classes are free. Funding support for these activities may be available through The ELC Foundation or NMSS.
Adaptive Climbing Adaptive Climbing Group is a community for people with disabilities to have opportunities to inclusively participate in the sport of climbing. Adaptive Climbing is taking the already existing abilities of a person and helping them participate in the sport.
Can Do Multiple Sclerosis Offers many virtual programs that you can do from the comfort of your home.
Public Libraries are not only an air-conditioned activity, but many offer passes at a discounted rate to museums and other attractions around Massachusetts. Find your local library here:
EBT Card to Culture Discount For those who receive SNAP benefits, you can show your EBT card at a variety of events/locations to get discounted admission. Please note, not all listed activities are accessible for all patients.
For more information or if you have questions please contact: Hailey Leonard, LICSW, Clinical Social Worker at The Elliot Lewis Center at 781-591-8307 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org