What Are Cooling Vests and Can They Help With MS?

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you may have noticed that your symptoms flare up when you're warm. That's because even a small rise in your body temperature -- as little as one quarter of a degree -- can make it harder for your nerves to send electrical impulses. That can make you feel tired and weak and cause vision problems.

Not everyone with MS is affected by heat, though. And heat-related symptoms don't last. But if heat does bother you, you might find it hard to enjoy yourself during warmer months or while you're active.

There are many ways to keep cool. Air-conditioning, a cool shower or bath before you go out, and avoiding hot food or drinks can help. But when these aren't enough, some people with MS get relief with a cooling vest.

How It Works

A cooling vest absorbs your body's heat and sweat. It also has packs that keep your chest and belly cool. You may need to freeze or refrigerate some packs before wearing them, while others are battery-powered or electric.

When your skin and blood (which circulates through your body) are cool, your whole body cools down.

How Do You Use It?

When to wear it: You should wear a cooling vest when it's warm or hot out. You can also use it when you're active (like going for a walk or gardening).

When to put it on: It's best to put your cooling vest on at least half an hour before you think you'll need it. You'll want to wear it over a thin shirt that lets moisture pass through it. If you cover it, make sure your shirt or coat is made from breathable fabric as well, like linen or cotton.

How long it works: Cooling vests typically can keep you cool for up to 3 hours. But you'll have to test it to see how it works for you and how different activities and environments affect how you feel.

Before You Buy One

Talk to your MS doctor or nurse about what would be right for you. And you may want to try out a few before settling on one.

Some cooling vests can be expensive. But a few programs provide cooling vests for people with MS, including the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America's Cooling Distribution Program and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation's Cooling Program.

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on March 05, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Heat & Temperature Sensitivity," "Cool It! Beat the Heat."

Multiple Sclerosis Society (U.K.): "Hot and Cold: The Effects of Temperature on MS."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Keep Cool: Multiple Sclerosis and Heat Tolerance."

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America: "Cooling Distribution Program."

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: "Cooling Program."

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