Now that the temperature has started to seriously climb — summer seems to be coming a bit late this year — I look for ways to stay cool in the heat. Those of us with MS know that raising our core body temperature can not only slow us down, it can exacerbate existing MS symptoms.
MS patients try everything from cold showers to wearing cold-packed life vests to keep cool. Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep cool that are a little more enjoyable than a bracing shower:
1. Run cold water over your wrists. The inside of the wrists are like the body’s thermostat and the most sensitive place for temperature changes. That’s why we test for fevers with the inner wrist across the forehead, or judge the temperature of the baby’s bottle by splashing a few drops on the wrist. I find that cooling off the inside of my wrists can bring my entire body’s temp down pretty quickly and make me much more comfortable.
2. Frozen washcloths. Every summer my jazzercise instructor freezes wet washcloths in a zip-top baggie. She pulls out the baggie at the start of class and by the time we’re ready for the anarobic floor work segment at the end, they’ve thawed just enough to separate. You haven’t known paradise until you mop a sweaty brow with a frozen towel! I usually try to drape the rapidly-thawing towel across the back of my neck (tucking the corners into my jog-bra to hold it in place) as I do the weight-training routines.
3. Drink sun tea. I love making sun tea in the summer, and it’s a great way to stay hydrated without pumping your body full of extra calories or artificial ingredients. In my 20s I always kept a pitcher of Crystal Lite in the fridge, but now I wonder if all that aspartame might have contributed to my body breaking down with MS. Aspartame poisoning can mimic some MS symptoms, even though we’ve been sold it as a “safe” sugar substitute.
To make sun tea, fill a large glass (not plastic!) jar with cold, filtered water. Drop in a couple of tea bags (I’ve used 3 “family-size” tea bags here). Close the lid loosely as you want the air to be able to circulate as the water heats. Set it in direct sun for a few hours and voila! Remove the tea bags and store the jar in the fridge.
I always make my sun tea decaffeinated so that I can drink it with impunity and not suffer the effects of caffeine. Personally, I like to use black tea, even Liptons, but feel free to use your favorite herbal teas as well. The photo on the right shows the jar at the end of the day with fully-brewed tea. Garnished with fresh mint from the garden, sun tea is one of my favorite summertime treats!
Look for sun tea jars at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or even your local supermarket. I like the ones that have a pour-spout at the base so that I can dispense tea without removing the jar from the refrigerator shelf.