Uhthoff’s Symptom

It’s back! It’s here again and boy I love it!

“It” is autumn, and those of you in my physical surroundings know that I live for autumn. And winter. And hey, maybe spring too if it’s not too warm outside!

“It” means fresh and clean air entering my lungs and a bit more energy in my ol’ bones.

“It” also means I feel alive, oh yes I do! ♩♪♫♬ I feel good! Like you know that I would now! ♩♪♫♬

Just like I love watching the grass grow in springtime, I enjoy the turning of colours on tree foliage in autumn. In fact, I love it even more because of the crisp feeling of cool air in the last of the sun’s heat before winter arrives.

There’s nothing like putting on a warm winter coat, leather gloves, scarf, warm Dr Martens’ boots and a winter hat… Summer’s not really my thing with tiny bikinis, hot days and painful sunbathing… been there, done that, still wearing sun damaged skin on my cool body as a result of sitting outside in the sun while my medication says I have to shield myself from it (the ever-rebellious girl I am… I know… :))

Autumn is refreshing even though I’m wrapped up warmly, it just makes me want to go for long walks on the beach, the hills, in town… Whoops, here goes the buzzer for giving the wrong speech because nah-ah… no energy just yet so a few more days of full-on resting has to be done before heading outside and enjoying this colourful season.

“Summer” is too strong a word for the few days of higher temperatures we had in Ireland this year… it seems the sun is mocking us for being on the wrong side of Europe these days (part of what is now Ireland used to lie submerged 600 million years ago close to what is now northwest Africa). We might as well belong to Iceland in regards to temperatures in modern age. And although part of the north of Ireland was created by volcanic activity, we have no active ones anymore. No Etnajajijiaojokulamabob or whatever the dreaded Icelandic volcano-that-will-keep-your-airplane-on-the-ground is called these days. Also, Ireland did a far better job in forming beautiful, lush nature on our volcanic land than Iceland has ever done… Phwoar… far, far, better!

There’s a checklist of things that needs looking after when autumn arrives… call my family doctor for my yearly flu injection; change duvets; bring out the hats, gloves, scarves and whatnot; last bit of gardening; get more books to read over the dark autumn and winter nights and get candles to light up the living room while reading and relaxing under a comfy fleece throw.

Yes… nothing my body loves more than autumn. People who don’t have MS or who don’t have heat intolerance problems will find it hard to contemplate how badly warm or cold temperatures can impact your body. They might even say you are just being overly sensitive or being a moaner, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

A few months before I was diagnosed 7.5 years ago, I used to have stabbing pain in my face and ear when sitting next to a cold window on the train during the winter. I had to keep my hat on, refrain from sitting next to the window and I had absolutely no idea where the pain came from. This kind of pain is rare these days, so I’m glad my temperature insensitivity only impacts me when it’s warm.

For example, every time after taking a hot shower I either have to sit in front of a cooling fan for 10 minutes or I have to lie down on my bed for half an hour because of shaking on my legs, nerve pain and/or tremors in my hands. I would physically feel like I just ran a marathon… Naked… In the Sahara… Without runners protecting my feet… Chasing a camel with loads of water… Who’s chasing a Fata Morgana.

However, I’ve come to embrace this little kink in my MS cable now, bending negatives into a positive outlook which means that I always look forward to autumn as soon as we’ve reached 17 degrees Celsius (or 66 degrees Fahrenheit) in springtime, and each summer I look forward to wearing my winter clothes knowing that I will be able to remove a few layers of it whenever I feel too warm. You can’t undo your epidermis; dermis and subcutaneous fat when you’re feeling too warm while being scarcely dressed in summertime, can you now, but you can in wintertime. I mean, you can try of course but I foresee a bit of a blubbery substance hopping around Dublin city centre if or when you do!

Uhthoff’s Symptom, the worsening of neurological illnesses due to heat also impacts the lives of people around you, so in that regard this symptom takes your family members and friends hostage because you cannot take part in typical summer events in warm temperatures and/or countries. I find myself having to cancel on trips because the temperatures promises to be a healthy 25 degrees Celsius, which sounds heavenly for them while I’m left thinking “where’s the ice cream van?! The cool-drinks area? The ice cube machine?! Open the window please to have some cool air coming in!!!”

Nevertheless, Uhthoff’s Symptom is something I can work around after finding small ways to adapt my surroundings and daily life; I sleep with my bedroom windows open, even in wintertime; wear several layers of clothes; eat ice cubes or ice cream to cool down and use ice packs from the freezer whenever I feel the outside temperature rising. There are also ice vests you can wear and you can sit in the shade opposed to baking yourself under soaring temperatures. As for the pain, there are always the likes of neuropathic painkillers and the good old-fashioned rest and relaxation.

In the end, I may have my first name in common with Uhthoff, but his is not a symptom that will keep me hostage over the next 6 months… autumn’s here and I will definitely enjoy it!

© WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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  1. Pingback: The duplicity of MS | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis and Me

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