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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Humidity and Multiple Sclerosis

By July 30, 2013

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About 3 years ago, I wrote a blog entitled, Q. Does Humidity Make Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms Worse?

Based on over 100 comments, we all kind of concluded that the answer was "yes," high humidity does make one feel much more "MS-y," as symptoms that are usually just annoying becoming almost debilitating at times.

I just experienced this phenomenon again - while vacationing (again) in Santa Fe, we were lucky to experience several rain showers in July (the "monsoon season" that I had missed up until now). It was lovely to see rain in the desert and temperatures dropped several degrees. However, despite lower temperatures, the higher humidity (in the 80+ percentile, versus the usual 20 percent) made me much more aware of my MS.

I thought I would bring this up for discussion once more, as I am guessing that many of you are suffering from high summer humidity, despite your attempts to stay cool and avoid the heat outside.

What do you think about humidity and MS? How is this year treating you? Have you found a way to get relief? Share your tips in the comments section below.

July 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm
(1) ammyanne says:

Hide out by the A.C., ice packs, cold showers, & covering all my windows to avoid heat re-radiation.

July 31, 2013 at 9:14 am
(2) Steve says:

Heat and Humidity are 2 different things and do not necessarily move in parallel directions. The negative impact of higher than normal temperatures on MS is pretty much common knowledge. The higher rate of humidity taken by itself is a good question. Would this be higher humidity at higher temperatures? Because in the middle of a rainstorm, whether it is summer or winter you can have very high humidity with either high or low temperatures. Just curious ….

July 31, 2013 at 10:07 am
(3) Kathy Reagan Young says:

I hide in the AC as much as possible. I have an ice pack for the back of my neck for when I can’t. I drink a lot of ice water and I have fans in every room of my house.

July 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm
(4) Kristi says:

Humidity + heat definately makes my MS worse! High humidity + heat gives me migrains. Humidity + cold (as in a foggy day at the coast) no problem for me. But then one can protect one’s self better from the cold than from the heat.

July 31, 2013 at 3:04 pm
(5) Milesap says:

I have PPMS and yes heat bothers me. But the Barametric pressure dropping has a greater effect – it cause me to slow down even in air conditioning – if the barometer stays flat I’m ok in AC – if the barometer rises I’m ok in AC regardless of humidity.

August 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm
(6) Jan says:

Personally, I believe it’s not the heat or the humidity…it’s the barometric pressure that rises & falls. Last summer I tracked my MS symptoms/overall feeling of bad/good/better vs. the pressure up or down and the lower the pressure, the worse I felt. There is something to be said for the sensitivity to changes in the weather, the “I feel it in my bones” stuff our grandparents used to say. Found this article, it gives a good explanation IMHO.


August 2, 2013 at 2:06 pm
(7) Valerie says:

have a/c running to take edge off, turn it off and use the fans

August 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm
(8) John says:

I think the heat + humidity interaction is based on the fact that evaporation of sweat is used by the body to cool off. When the humidity is higher, evaporation is slower, reducing the cooling ability of the body.

Try and keep cool out there.

August 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm
(9) Milesap says:

Me heat sucks but what really sucks is the drop in barometer. When the humidity is high its not a problem unless the barametric pressure drops. It will slow me down and add weight to the legs. Today its 90 degrees but the barometer raised and my legs feel normal.

August 7, 2013 at 10:52 am
(10) Betsi says:

I am literally unable to sweat, and I don’t know if this is from my MS or not. But for me high humidity is worse than high temps. Of course, they usually come together, and I just HATE it. It’s one of the worse aspects of having MS for me. My husband loves the summer, but we can’t enjoy outdoor activities together.

August 7, 2013 at 11:06 am
(11) Brenda B says:

I go from my a/c apartment to my a/c car to my a/c office and then reverse to go home. I am thinking about asking for a handicap sticker for those hot, humid days and the parking lots are full at Meijer.

August 7, 2013 at 11:10 am
(12) beholdhislove says:

Yes, I hate heat and humidity both

August 7, 2013 at 11:54 am
(13) Ginger says:

The area I live in is “under a heat dome” as the weatherman says. Temperaturs are in the low to mid 90s and humidity is ranging in the low 70s which makes for a heat index of up to 109 today. I don’t know which is making me feel bad, but high heat and humidity together makes it tough.

August 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm
(14) Janet says:

With a 30+ year history of ms, I rarely see or hear comments on being able to sweat. I lost the ability to sweat over 20 years ago. I am highly heat and humidity intolerant. So, whatever the weather I need to be careful not to get overheated. Strenuous exercise, fever (even less than one degree elevated) leave me very debilitated in the same way as hot weather.

August 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm
(15) Leslie says:

I too was not perspiring and was heat intolerant. Now I take Zoloft & one of the side effects is excess perspiration. It has actually helped me feel better.

August 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm
(16) Clara says:

I find that humidity makes me feel sluggish and just yucky. When i can turn on the ac I feel much better and sleep better. It seems I even have more energy.

August 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm
(17) SmartyPants196 says:

Oh yes i found out about the neg effects of humidity when i traveled from Oregon, which is very mild temps and humidity back to my home state of WI in Aug, from the time i got off the plane i suffered whenever i went out of doors, at the time we hadn’t figured out it was MS and my father kept noticing how much i talked about how hot i was, every time i went outside
I got the brain fuzzyies and i felt like I had a weight on my whole body. Years later when i found out about how heat affects people w ms, i remembered my trip and was certain that the humidity was the culprit

August 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm
(18) Liesa says:

I am a human barometer ,know what the weather will be like before I pull back the curtains .

August 7, 2013 at 11:50 pm
(19) monica says:

I have never been diagnosed by an MD, however the things that are happening to me only indicate that I do indeed have MS. THe humidity is killing me and the fact that I am responsible for my mother who has middles stage dementia…is killing me. Ice packs and MMJ is what have. A lot of cold showers, too. My balance is getting more affected and the headaches, blood sugar increases and high blood pressure. Sick of it, mostly because I have no help and would at least feel a bit more secure if I could get SSI…:(((

August 8, 2013 at 10:56 am
(20) Daisy Serrano says:

I have MS for 5 years now. The heat and the humidity are torture to me.
I need to be indoors with AC most of the time. My legs feel heavy and unsteady, my balance gets worst when it is hot and humid.
I still go for my daily walk. Change in diet and meditation help me the most .I used to be hyperactive and stressed . Now I am calm and relaxed.

August 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm
(21) Lucy M says:

I also have had MS for more than 30 years. I’m lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where the temps are not as high here. We are in the 80′s and I have gotten over heated with my balance being off.. I also had what appeared to be a small seizure, I was aware of what was going on I didn’t lose consciousness but it was very scary..

August 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm
(22) Tamara says:

I definitely feel worse when the humidity is high and it is warm My legs feel heavier and the bottoms of my feet feel “fuzzy”AC is mandatory!!

August 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm
(23) Cheryl says:

In my case, it’s a matter of how much I “feel” the heat and how much I sweat. This can vary depending on the real-feel temperature, which is higher when the humidity is higher. I tend to sweat more when it’s more humid, which makes me feel hotter, which affects my MS. I’m already slow, but I can manage when it feels cooler, even if the temperature is high. But in NY, we get lots of humidity in the summer, so on those days, it’s best for me to stay indoors. Not that that’s much relief, because I don’t have A/C, but at least I don’t have to exert myself when I’m home, as opposed to trying to walk and do other activities when I’m outdoors.

August 8, 2013 at 11:20 pm
(24) Pam says:

In 2012 I suffered terribly with the high heat and humidity from my MS that I have struggled with for 20 years. I have always struggled with being sensitive to heat, humidity and light. I have sought alternative therapies and one thing I find that has helped tremendously in this summer is taking a supplement for the adrenal glands. I tested for adrenal distress in November of 2012 and went on a long term supplement to support this important gland. Big difference from this summer to last. Please have your adrenal glands checked..it could be a huge difference for you too!

August 9, 2013 at 12:53 am
(25) Liza says:

Indeed, I have found Summer to be the cruelest season. Temps about 80 degrees fahrenheit and high humidity make me more fatigued, impact my walking speed, as well as cognition. When I venture out, I find it helpful to tie a frozen bandana around my neck (yes, you heard it right, a frozen bandana. Sprinkle water on a clean bandana, stick it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, tie around neck). Thanks to folks who mention the impact of barometric pressure.

August 11, 2013 at 9:42 am
(26) Guerre says:

Frogg Toggs are a life saver. they are made of the same material the high divers use to wipe off after leaving a pool and can drop body temp extremely fast and a long ways.
awaiting a friend’s arrival to make me a shirt out of several.

August 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm
(27) Andrea says:

The heat here in Corpus Christi has been a real bear! I’ll be glad as we approach year end.

August 17, 2013 at 6:43 am
(28) Pip Allon says:

Well I live in Israel, in Jerusalem…….
Most of the summer I’m inside, very limiting socially.
When I do venture out for a short work with my dog I come back panting and exhausted.
Spring is my time……role on Spring.

August 21, 2013 at 10:37 am
(29) dwbrant says:

I commented on the other article, but will again.

High humidity with heat does cause more “awareness” of my MS. I feel as if an exacerbation is currently under way; it is in the 90s (F) here, humidity is in the high 60s or low 70s percentage wise.

I ride a motorcycle to/from work, so I can’t simply avoid the heat. This next month, I have a feeling, is going to be hellish.

I have actually considered moving to a high desert area, maybe in New Mexico. Heat w/o humidity is OK by me … and I do know that humidity occurs some times, I was amazed when I was in Saudi Arabia with the high heat/humidity combinations.

August 23, 2013 at 8:28 am
(30) Dania Magee says:

I reaf this letter on and off. The humidity absolutely is exhausting and very frustrating a lot of times.

August 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm
(31) Jennifer Evans says:

Poem anthology by authors who have Multiple Sclerosis…soon to be published! Check out http://www.touchingms.com and revisit to order your copy. Proceeds will benefit the MS community.

September 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm
(32) Smirk380 says:

Just like heat can altar your mood, do you see the same effect in cold weather. I find my body flips from cold to hot depending on air conditioner temps. The rapid change seems to tire my body faster,what about you?

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