MS in the Fall and Winter: 5 Ways to Stay Well

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on September 10, 2022
2 min read

After the hot, humid days of summer, the colder temperatures in the fall and winter can come as a shock to our bodies. If you have a condition like multiple sclerosis (MS), cold temps can make your symptoms worse and make you flat-out uncomfortable. You might find that it’s harder to move your limbs, you get more muscle spasms than normal, or your muscles feel tighter.

Doctors aren’t sure why cold temperatures make MS symptoms worse. But they think that the condition can alter the way you feel temperature changes. 

If your symptoms get worse in cold weather, it’s usually for a short time. A few simple tips can help you stay comfortable and warm in the fall and winter.

Try to get moving. When you have MS, there may be times when you find you can’t move around as easily as you’d like. When you can, try to get some moderate physical activity like walking or stretching. It’ll help you burn energy and warm up.

Dress in layers. This will help keep you warm. And if you get too hot, you can easily remove layers and stay comfortable. When it’s very cold, it’s a good idea to wear hats, thick socks, or lined boots. This will keep heat from escaping through your head or feet.

Keep your hands and feet warm. Doctors believe that MS can cause blood vessels in your hands and feet to overreact to cold temperatures. If you have MS, you may also be at risk for Raynaud’s phenomenon, a condition in which your fingers and toes lose heat. They turn from white to blue to red as the blood begins flowing again. You may feel numbness, pain, or like someone is sticking you with pins and needles.

To protect your hands and feet from the effects of the cold, try wearing hand warmers or using a heating pad. But don’t place the heating pad directly on your skin. It could cause burns or blisters.

Warm your insides. The easiest way to do this is to eat hot meals like soup. You can also sip hot drinks like tea or coffee. Pour them into an insulated mug to keep them warm longer and help limit your trips to the kitchen.

Get some sunshine. Even on crisp fall and cold winter days, who doesn’t love the feeling of sunshine on their shoulders? Step outside and soak up some rays. You’ll warm up, and you’ll help your body make some much-needed vitamin D. An added benefit? A little sunshine might help boost your mood.