Sensitivity to heat not affected by summer sunshine


As summer continues with temperatures in the 30°s C (high 80°s), the hottest days now seem to be behind us here in the south of Spain. The temperatures peaked at over 100°, so the high 80°s is quite pleasant.

What’s more, the good news is that the hot weather has not caused me any heat sensitivity problems at all. But then, that’s exactly what I expected. And that is because my heat sensitivity is triggered by changes in temperature not consistent heat.

Some people were concerned about heat exhaustion when the learned that Lisa ad I announced we were moving to Spain, two years ago. But after a series of sudden temperature changes experienced in the UK, this is a walk in the park.

Heat in your marriage

Talking of my beloved Lisa, she never ceases to amaze me with her selfless dedication to my wellbeing.

I have heard from so many people with MS who have split up ad divorced when their partners decide that a life as a caregiver isn’t for them. It is so sad.

Lisa has known that I have MS right from the start of our relationship, I never tried to hide it. She agreed to marry me knowing what was in store for us both. Furthermore, her granddad had MS too, so she knew more than most husbands and wives when their spouses are diagnosed as having MS.

Perhaps that is not incredible, perhaps it should be expected but there are many who have found that not to be the case. The “till death do us part” of the marriage vows appears to have been lost on their partners.

Do you have the loving support of your spouse or have you split up? And just how does heat sensitivity affect you, or doesn’t it? Please let me know.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

Too much sunshine not good for young children or people with heat sensitivity

Having left a mainly editing and managing role in April, I now have more time to devote to writing. And, to be honest, that is where I am happiest.

Now I am writing for Medical News Today as well as paying much more attention to this blog. This had suffered through lack of time during the last year.

With more time available, I can now write articles that, before, were put on one side. And that starts today.

A news story caught my attention a couple of days ago. It was about a warning from NHS England and the Meteorological Office reminding parents that suntans on children are unhealthy.

Apparently, a survey suggests a third of parents believe, mistakenly, that going brown is good for children, But, a tan doesn’t stop the sun’s harmful UV rays. Instead, it is damaged skin trying to protect itself.

Clare Nasir, tv weather presenter and meteorologist, said: “Protecting against skin cancer isn’t something parents should leave to chance.

“UV levels are usually highest between May and September. Clouds don’t always stop UV rays, and unlike the sun’s warmth, it’s difficult to know when they may be harming you.”

Boost vitamin D but don’t overdo it

Dr Nigel Acheson, from NHS England, said although exposure to some sunlight was good for boosting vitamin D levels, people should not overdo it.

“We typically recommend that people spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes in the UK summer sun, unprotected, several times a week,” he said.

heat“People who spend more than 15 minutes in the sun on any given day, should apply sun protection factor 15 or higher.”

Nicola Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: “There’s no such thing as a safe tan, from the sun or sunbeds.”

“While everyone needs a little bit of sun for vitamin D, most children and adults get enough from a short amount of time outside, less than it takes to burn.”

Apart from UV rays, too much sun can also hurt many of us, both with and without multiple sclerosis, who have heat sensitivity. Usually, this is caused by it being too hot, too cold or, for anyone like me, when it’s too changeable.

Top tips to avoid the sun’s heat and UV rays

British weather was too changeable for me, which is why Lisa and I moved to Spain. It gets really hot here but that’s ok for me because it’s constant.

So, what top tips are there to avoid being affected by the high summer temperature? Here’s a few:

  • Avoid extreme temperatures – If you love to be outdoors, limit your time in the sun. Go indoors to cool down. Don’t overheat or you’ll pay for it over the next few days.
  • Use cooling equipment – If you are outdoors for a time, make sure to keep cooling products available.
  • Keep yourself hydrated – Water is the best drink to fight dehydration and quench your thirst. Iced water is even better.
  • Wear lightweight clothing or clothes that breathe – Wear loose, lightweight and light coloured clothing. I recommend a light summer hat, too. That provides your own portable shade.
  • Plan ahead and remember timing is everything – If you are going to be outside, get your timing right. Avoid the hottest part of the day.

Heat sensitivity is unpleasant and makes symptoms of MS and other disabilities worse. But that is only temporary (pseudoexacerbations). The heat does not cause more damage.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


Being in the sun helps vitamin D levels but Orkney’s high MS rate is not due to deficiency, study shows


Spending more time in the sun can help everyone who needs to overcome his or her low level of vitamin D – and research in Scotland suggests that even taking holidays abroad may hold the key to tackling vitamin D deficiency.

People who take foreign breaks have higher levels of vitamin D in their blood, which has been linked to wide-ranging health benefits, including fighting multiple sclerosis. According to the findings, farmers also have higher levels of the vitamin – which is produced naturally in the skin after exposure to sunlight.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh surveyed the vitamin D levels of around 2000 people in Orkney – 1 in 10 of the population – as part of the ORCADES study.

The team was interested to see whether widespread vitamin D deficiency in Orkney might explain why rates of multiple sclerosis are higher there than anywhere in the world but they were surprised to find that average vitamin D levels are higher in Orkney than mainland Scotland, with the highest levels being seen in farmers and people over 60 years of age who take regular foreign holidays.

Vitamin D is known to be associated with good bone health. It has also been linked to wide-ranging health benefits including lower blood pressure, reduced heart disease risk and better chances of surviving cancer.

Deficiency in vitamin D has been strongly linked to diseases including multiple sclerosis. Scotland has one of the world’s highest rates of MS with Orkney being the worst affected. Studies have yet to prove that vitamin D is responsible or whether it serves as a marker for how much sun exposure a person has had.

Professor Jim Wilson, who led the study at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “It was surprising to see that levels of vitamin D were not worse in Orkney, and if anything they were better than in mainland Scotland. It would appear that poor vitamin D status, while common enough, cannot explain the excess of multiple sclerosis we see in Orkney.”

Emily Weiss is PhD student at the University of Edinburgh who was involved in the study. She said: “It was interesting to find that the traditional occupation of farming was associated with higher levels of vitamin D in Orkney. This may be because farmers are outside and utilising even the smallest window of vitamin D strength sunshine.

“We also found that farmers in our Orkney cohort tended to be older, suggesting that the traditional way of life is changing, leaving younger people potentially more exposed to MS risk factors such as vitamin D deficiency.”

The research is published in the journal PLoS One and was funded by the Shetland and Orkney Multiple Sclerosis Research Project.


HSCT, sunshine, MS and other musings

gwen higgsbernie sandersHCdavid cameron_edited Gwen Higgs, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and David Cameron

Gwen’s story, warts and all

HSCT, stem cell therapy, and its use to treat multiple sclerosis patients has been on television, in publications and even this blog during the second half of January. In just a couple of days, or so, I shall be bringing you the story of Gwen Higgs from diagnoses, through her battle against both MS and her neurologist, her treatment in Russia, and how she is today.

It is an honest story that does not gloss over her struggles or her embarrassment. Be sure not to miss out.

So this is winter?

Weather here in the south of Spain continues to be most pleasant. In the last two days, Lisa and I have enjoyed lunch outdoors on the terrace while we soaked up the sun;  so good for my Vitamin D.

Forecasts for Thursday and Friday don’t look as good with highs of only 12° and 14°C/ 54° and 57°F respectively – but warmer weather should return on Saturday.

I am still not really acclimatised yet but certainly enjoying the sunshine in which it is hot enough to sunbathe. It just seems ridiculous to be able to do that in the so-called winter months of January and February.

Back to Malaga

Our car was collected today and taken back to the automatic gearbox specialist in Malaga but, this time, they brought us a courtesy car. So there is no need now to rely on neighbours’ goodwill to take us shopping and what not.

Six coin tosses decide Iowa Democratic winner

So six of the Iowa State Democratic party delegates as elected by the caucus were decided by coin tosses as both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders achieved equal votes in six of the areas being counted.

Now if six dead heats aren’t coincidental enough, the fact that Hillary won all six coin tosses is just too much for me. Don’t worry, I am sure conspiracy theories will soon arise.

In Iowa, Sanders won 21 of the delegates without a coin toss; Hillary gained 22 INCLUDING all six dead heats decided by the flip of a coin. Now tell me that Hillary won in Iowa. If just one toss had gone to Sanders, then he would have won 22-21. Enough said.

UK Euro battle lines were drawn early

On the eastern side of the Atlantic, UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hailing the outcome of his negotiations with Europe as successful. Whether they are, or aren’t, is another matter.

What everybody needs to realise, however, is that the ‘stay’ and ‘leave’ campaigns for the UK’s promised referendum on membership of the European Union were already decided before the results of the renegotiation were known.

Those determined to stay, and those determined to leave, had declared their positions and would be campaigning for victory in the referendum. In reality, the renegotiations did not matter at all.


MS seems affected by sun; great prescription service

Poached eggs on the way.   Poached eggs on the way.

It was good to get back behind the wheel this morning and drive for the very first time since the automatic gearbox decided enough was enough on Christmas Eve.

It was an early start too. Well, early for me as we needed to be in our nearest town where Lisa had a 9am appointment at the medical centre. Even when we lived in Wales, I was a night owl and not an early riser and there was no need to change habits when we got here. Today was different.

Actually, talking of the appointment, it was just for Lisa to get her repeat prescriptions. Back in the UK, this had to be arranged a month at a time but, here, she came back to the car with a prescription for six months’ supply of her medications. Now, that is service.

The appointment this morning was also quite an achievement for Lisa as she went through it all speaking only Spanish and understanding the doctor’s replies. That’s something I could not do yet but I am working on that.

After leaving there, we returned home and I have to say that the car was an absolute pleasure to drive; I only hope that continues. Arriving home, my beloved headed straight for the kitchen where she prepared breakfast, as we only had a cup of tea before our trip to the medical centre. In fact, breakfast marked Lisa’s second ‘first’ of the day. It was the very first time in her life that she had cooked poached eggs. For a first attempt they turned out brilliantly but the cook wasn’t happy with her own work and says she is determined to do better next time. All I can say is, ‘yes please’ and ‘the sooner the better’; you might guess that I love poached eggs.

Having now lived in Spain for more than two months, during which we have enjoyed the autumn and early winter sunshine, I can say that living in the sun seems to be having a beneficial effect on the multiple sclerosis that affects me.

Sunshine is not a cure for MS but it does have two effects. First of all it helps your body create more vitamin D and, secondly, sunny days generally lift your spirits. Bearing these facts in mind, I feel that I am maintaining my balance better and am certainly falling less frequently. In fact, thinking about it, I have not had a real fall for weeks and even the number of times when my knee has given way has reduced significantly.

Why me? Maybe I have my answer

IMG_0796_cropped  ms montage

Most people being forced to live with an illness such as multiple sclerosis are bound to ask in those blackest of moments ‘why me?’ Despite my positive outlook on life, I certainly did a few years ago when I had several falls in one day.

I can still recall that awful day when, having taken yet another tumble, I swore out loud about ‘this ******* MS’ and, in pure frustration, hammered the floor with my good hand as I cried out ‘why me?’

Ok, so those dark emotional days are well behind me now, I have grown used to living with my MS. Looking back is something I do with pleasure, remembering the good times and my successes while forgetting the rest. Looking forward is full of anticipation and hope, while the present is for living every moment to the fullest that can be managed.

Now, the question ‘why me?’ is no longer asked. MS is an uninvited guest that is not going away. But I am still interested in how it got in. In other words, what caused it in me.

No single cause of MS has yet been identified but various sources reveal that scientists believe that the likelihood of contracting the illness is linked to four factors. These are: Immunologic, Genetic, Environmental and Infections.

Immunologic; It is well established that in MS the immune system malfunctions and attacks the central nervous system. Researchers know that the myelin sheath is directly affected, but they don’t know what triggers the immune system to attack the myelin.

Genetic: Several genes are believed to play a role in MS. The chance of developing MS is slightly higher if a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, has the disease. According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF), if one parent has MS, the risk of their children getting the disease is estimated to be between two and five percent. Scientists believe that some people are born with a genetic susceptibility to react to certain, but as yet unknown, environmental agents. Maybe an autoimmune response is triggered when they encounter these agents.

Environmental: It is now well-known that MS is more predominant in countries that are further away from the equator and this has indicated that a lack of vitamin D may play a role. Vitamin D does benefit the function of the immune system. People who live near the equator are exposed to more sunlight. The more sunlight that skin receives, the more the body naturally produces the vitamin.

Infections: Researchers are considering the possibility that viruses and bacteria may cause MS. Viruses are known to cause inflammation and a breakdown of myelin (called demyelination). Therefore, it’s possible that a virus could trigger MS. Several viruses and bacteria are being investigated to determine if they’re involved. These include: measles, human herpes virus-6 and Epstein-Barr virus that causes glandular fever.

Ok, so how does all that affect me? I have no idea about the immunology but there was no-one in my family with MS, so a genetic cause can be discounted.

Of course, environmental factors could well play a part as from birth until my 63rd birthday I lived in the UK, first in the south-east and, for the last 23 years, further north in North Wales. The lack of sunlight in the UK, especially the further north you go, comes as no surprise, but University of Oxford researchers used NASA satellite data to quantify the decreasing levels of UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun as you move north. Less UV means less vitamin D produced in the body. There are also concerns that worries about skin cancer mean people can cover up too much. New official advice stresses the need to strike a balance between healthy sun exposure and skin cancer risks.

I have already said, in a previous blog post, the poor British weather with almost constant grey skies, rain and strong winds – plus my desire to increase my vitamin D level – was the prime reason behind our move to Spain.

Finally, and for me the most telling factor, is infection. Of the infection listed as possible causes of MS, one was the Epstein-Barr virus that causes glandular fever and this I had in or about 1974. That year I was approaching my 22nd birthday.

When I was finally diagnosed with MS, 27 years later, the consultant neurologist told me that he had gone back through my medical records and found evidence of MS as far back as my mid-20s.

Hmm, glandular fever at 21, almost 22, and evidence of MS mid-20s. A clinical link may not be scientifically proven but, if you were me, would you need any further proof? I most certainly don’t!