Autumn, MS and me

16 November 2023

Chris holding his dog

From falling leaves to cosy nights in, Chris’ love affair with the autumnal months is strong. Here he explores why he favours the colourful joys of autumn over the summer heat.

I had an ex-partner who would tell people that I didn’t like ‘weather’. The implication being that nothing was ever right for me. That is often the case but on this one he was wrong.

I love most weather. I just have a problem with a particular season: summer. 

I’m currently feeling jubilant now we’re in the midst of autumn.

I’m kicking my way through fallen leaves, enjoying my winter coat and scarves and indulging in hot soup and fresh air. I always feel that I should celebrate getting through another summer.

Even as a child, I didn’t like heat and avoided sunshine. I’d cling to the furniture, begging not to be made to go out if the weather was hot. It persisted into adulthood, and I’ve remained vampiric.

If the weather is hot then you’ll find me with the curtains drawn, living nocturnally and always near one of my five fans, on my cooling pillow, or being deafened by the portable aircon unit.

The heat makes me feel really ill and I always just assumed that was a quirk of mine. Perhaps an example of me being uptight and difficult.

It turns out that it’s more likely to do with the MS that I’ve had for over twenty years.

It even has a name. I’m not just a freak of nature. It’s called Uhthoff's phenomenon. I know that some people get this when it’s cold. But for me, hot weather brings on a raft of symptoms.

Crank up the heating and I become groggy, start to feel nauseated and my left side starts to tingle and burn. It’s so reassuring to know that this is a real thing and I’m not just difficult.

Uhthoff's phenomenon is described as when a small increase in body temperature can slow down or block nerve signals in damaged nerves from MS. This might make your symptoms worse temporarily, but once your body adjusts, the symptoms usually get better.

It’s worse for me if the heat is sudden.

If I get onto a boiling hot train, then my skin goes a delightful greyish colour and I start to feel like I’m about to vomit and pass out.

Ditto for vigorous exercise. Not that I do that often. Hot baths and showers are out too. I carry two portable fans with me wherever I go and my heating bills are below average.  

As much as heat and sunshine is invigorating for most people, it’s really not for me. I’m not miserable or a killjoy. It’s a medical thing.

And it turns out my ex was wrong. 

I do like weather. Just as long as it’s not hot. 

Viva autumn.