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Beat the Heat: A Summertime Parental Survival Guide with MS

By Matt Cavallo

School is out for summer! After a year of virtual learning, parents and children are celebrating the end of a very challenging school year. Many parts of the country, however, are experiencing record heat waves now making it hard for parents to entertain their kids while giving them a break from screens. As a parent living with MS, excessive heat can cause temporary worsening of my MS symptoms

It has been previously established, going back to Uhtoff’s research in the 1800s, that heat can exacerbate MS and lead to optic neuritis and other visual symptoms, as well as, an increase in fatigue, pain, balance, weakness, bladder issues, cognitive or sensory symptoms. So how does a parent survive the dog days of summer with kids when the temperatures are rising? Here are some ideas that can help to keep everyone cool and unplugged:

Take up swimming: Swimming is the perfect summer activity to keep you cool. It is also a low-impact exercise, which is good for someone living with MS. It also keeps kids off the screens because their phones can’t get wet. If you don’t have your own pool, call your local parks and recreation center to find a pool near you with public swim hours.

Build a fort: Grab the blankets, couch cushions, and as many pillows as you can find and let the kids go wild. Fort building encourages kids to be creative and practice their problem-solving skills. For even more fort fun, turn out the lights and bring out the flashlights so kids can pretend they’re camping indoors. It may make a mess of the living room for a day, but an activity where kids can entertain themselves for hours is well worth it.

Play a board game or card game: Go old school and play a game that doesn’t require the internet or video game controllers. Board games are a great activity for the whole family to have fun together.

Put on a play or talent show with costumes: Encourage your kids to work together to write a play or each come up with their own skit and present it for the family. Kids can dress up and dance to their favorite song, act out a silly scene from a movie, or sing their heart out. Dress-up doesn’t just have to be for girls, costume changes make the whole event more fun for everyone!

Get crafty: Turn your trash into treasure, literally. Anything from milk jugs to egg cartons can be repurposed into crafts. Milk jugs make great bird feeders and lanterns while egg cartons can become the beginnings of an indoor garden. The possibilities are endless when kids are given the opportunity to create.

Make a cool treat: There’s nothing more refreshing than homemade popsicles on a hot summer day. Jell-O and pudding are also great no-bake treat options. Letting the kids put together an ice cream sundae bar with all of their favorite toppings is sure to be a hit, too.

Escape to cooler temperatures: A vacation doesn’t have to be an all-inclusive expensive get away. It could be a road trip and camping. Just something to unplug, get away and spend quality time together. These trips you can do with minimal planning and they always end up being the trips that the kids remember the most.