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If you have MS then you will know that heat isn’t your friend. Heat can exacerbate your symptoms so finding ways to stay cool is essential. The use of a cooling vest has been proven to be very effective in keeping MS patients cool, especially when combined with other methods such as using an electric fan, keeping out of direct sunlight, and making sure that bath or shower water is kept at the right temperature.
What are Cooling Vests for MS?
The temperature sensitivity experienced by as many as 80% of MS sufferers is sometimes called Uhthoff’s phenomenon and usually lasts up to 24 hours per episode. This occurs because of a rise in the core body temperature and is named after the man who first observed it; Wilhelm Uhthoff.
Cooling vests are an innovative way for MS patients to maintain a steady body temperature and are versatile enough to be worn regardless of what you’re doing. A lot of people wear them when exercising as a way of controlling body temperature, and you can wear them both underneath or over the top of your existing clothing.
There are two types of cooling vests; active and passive. One of these relies on power while being worn, where the other relies on things like ice packs. But we will look a little more closely at the differences later in this guide.
Do Cooling Vests Work for Multiple Sclerosis Patients?
If you’ve long suffered with spikes in your body temperature as an MS sufferer, then the last thing you want to do is spend money on a cooling vest that isn’t going to make any difference.
However, when it comes to cooling vests, it is good news. Studies have shown that not only are they effective but they may increase your ability to remain more physically active compared to when you’re not wearing one. One example of this was in a study of females with MS, most of whom were able to walk much greater distances when using a cooling vest.
There has been evidence to show that pre-cooling the body could also improve your active abilities. Since exercise is recommended for relieving symptoms of MS, it’s important that we are able to work out. But this is contradicted by the rise in body heat during exercise which can make those symptoms worse. This problem can largely be managed through pre-cooling before exercise.
When Should You Wear a Cooling Vest?
If you wear your cooling vest correctly then it should be able to regulate your body temperature for as long as three hours. You’d typically wear the vest when you are going to be doing physical activity or when the conditions are expected to be warm to hot.
It is important to make sure that you put the cooling vest on at least thirty minutes before exposure to heat. For vests that work with cooling packs, there will typically be up to four pockets on the front of the vest and up to a further four on the back. Before putting the vest on, you’ll need to make sure that the cooling packs are in place.
Once you have the vest on, you’ll need to close it at the front and adjust the straps at the side so that it fits snugly but comfortably around your body.
Types of Cooling Vests
As we mentioned earlier, there are different types of cooling vests. The difference is in how the vests work and there are active and passive cooling vests. Before you purchase a cooling vest for MS, it’s worth considering the pros and cons of each type to figure out what would work best for you.
One of the main benefits of the active cooling vest is that it is ideal if you need to stay cool for a longer period of time. They work on a motor within the vest that helps to circulate cool air. Note that you may or may not require the addition of ice and water with an active cooling vest.
There is a tubing system within the vest and when switched on, the motor sends chilled air around the garment, keeping you cool. While this is extremely effective, you should keep in mind that the technology behind this does make active vests more expensive which could be considered a disadvantage.
But one of the obvious plus points of the active cooling vest is that, even after you finish wearing it, you will still feel the benefit for up to two hours afterwards, helping you to maintain a suitable body temperature for longer.
One thing you should keep in mind, however, is that the active vests are far less portable. You’ll need a lot more equipment such as a power supply, a cooler and a pump which can make using them on the go a little tricky. If you’re someone that stays at home for most of the time, they are great for this.
There are some more advanced active cooling vests that are designed to be portable and are powered by a battery and have a compact cooling bag. But these still aren’t as easily portable as their passive counterparts.
Unlike active cooling vests, passive vests do not require power. Instead, they work by using one of three different methods to control body temperature. There are some that use cooling packs while others are made from materials that absorb body heat. You’ll also find passive cooling vests that use evaporation to maintain a cooler temperature. Let’s take a look at the different options.
- Evaporative cooling vest: one of the most lightweight and portable types of cooling vest is the evaporative vest. An evaporative vest needs to be soaked in water for a few minutes, you can then put it on and the process of evaporation will keep you cool. These passive vests are made from water resistant fabric so the wearer doesn’t feel wet after soaking the garment.
- Gel pack cooling vest: if you want a lightweight type of cooling vest then gel pack vests might be worth considering. Unlike some types that require the user to put ice packs in the pockets, these vests are already kitted out with gel-filled pockets that can be chilled in a freezer. Once frozen, you’ll get around three hours use out of the vest and since they’re less bulky, they’re a brilliant choice for wearing under your existing clothing.
- Ice pack cooling vest: as the name suggests, an ice pack cooling vest uses ice packs which are inserted into pockets sewn into the garment. These ice packs feel cool from the off which can provide great relief in hot conditions. However, if you’re very sensitive to heat, they might not be ideal. Also keep in mind that ice pack cooling vests can weigh you down quite substantially.
- Embedded gel cooling vest: much like the gel cooling vest, the embedded gel cooling vest is filled with small gel crystals. These are activated when they are soaked in water. Once soaked, you will then need to dry the vest using a towel and freeze it. While they are lightweight and great for going out and about, you tend to only get a couple of hours use every time you freeze the vest.
- Phase change cooling vests:phase change vests make use of cooling packs but the great thing about them is that the technology ensures that they take longer to melt, providing cooling for much longer periods. This is all thanks to the phase changing material that the vest is made from and what’s great is that this is one of the most affordable types. However, you should keep in mind that some phase change vests might not work in regions where the temperature changes rapidly, getting warmer more quickly since the cooling packs are not boosted with air circulation.
- Phase change heat-absorbing cooling vests: Some phase change vests are great for people who are sensitive to cold as they don’t feel as initially cold when you put them on. Rather than relying mainly on cooling packs, these vests are made from material that absorbs body heat.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a MS Cooling Vest
When choosing a cooling vest, it is essential that you take a close look at the features to help decide which product is going to work best for you. While there are pros and cons to all cooling vests, these are very much relative, so just because something might not work well for one person, that doesn’t mean it won’t be perfectly suited to you.
It goes without saying that you’re going to want to find a cooling vest that fits well. If the vest is too big or too small then you won’t feel as many benefits and it’ll likely be very uncomfortable. Most cooling vests come in a range of sizes, so be sure to check this out before purchasing.
Type of Cooling
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a cooling vest is whether you want active or passive cooling. There are pros and cons to each, but you need to think about what you would like to get out of the vest and how you’re going to use it.
Active cooling vests are powered and so provide seriously effective cooling. However, because of the technology, they tend to be more expensive. While they can cool you for much longer than a passive vest, you will find it more difficult to take them with you on the go which makes them less convenient.
On the other hand, passive cooling vests use ice packs, frozen gel and other things to keep you cool. Generally speaking, you’ll get around three hours use out of your vest, but if you need longer, more intense relief, this still may not be enough.
Also, keep in mind that passive cooling vests require more preparation as you will need to freeze them or soak them in water before use, depending on the type.
Passive vests that require the use of things like ice packs can feel quite heavy and bulky. For some people, this isn’t an issue, but for others it can make wearing the vest very uncomfortable. That’s why it’s really important to consider the weight of the vest. Trying it on before buying, where possible is a great idea.
If you’re looking for something very lightweight then things like evaporative and gel cooling vests are likely your best option.
Take a look at what material the vest is made from. You need something that’s going to be durable, especially if you’re going to get a lot of use out of it. But you also don’t want to compromise comfort for durability, so look for materials that provide a balance between the two.
Hygiene is incredibly important which is why we would always suggest looking for cooling vests that are easy to clean. Think about whether the vest can be washed in the washing machine or whether you will have to hand wash it.
As we mentioned earlier, choosing the right size, weight and materials can go a long way in improving your comfort when wearing the vest. Make sure that you try on the vest before buying to get a good idea of how comfortable it’s going to be.
Some cooling vests are designed to be worn underneath your clothes, so it’s important to check whether you can do this comfortably. The last thing you want is to feel restricted in your movement or have any materials chafing on your skin.
Best Multiple Sclerosis Cooling Vests
There are lots of great choices when it comes to buying a cooling vest, but we think that the following vests deserve a special mention.
1. FlexiFreeze Ice Cooling Vest
Using 93 ice cubes, this cooling vest takes cooling to the next level. It’s incredibly effective and will provide you with hours of cooling and is also very comfortable.
This lightweight cooling jacket is less than an inch thick, so it won’t feel bulky whether you wear it underneath or on top of your clothing. However, you should note that some users have complained that the vest leaves the skin red which indicates that the level of protection between the cooling packs and the skin isn’t quite adequate.
But another good point about the FlexiFreeze vest is that it comes in a great range of sizes from small to 6XL. You can machine wash the panels and the vest, so it’s brilliantly convenient too.
2. Ergodyne Evaporative Cooling Vest
What’s truly great about this vest is that, since it is an evaporative cooling vest, it’s so much quicker to prepare. You only need to soak it for between two and five minutes, so you’ll be ready to experience the cooling effects much more quickly. Even better is that once you’ve got the vest on, it’ll cool you for up to four hours! That’s some of the longest we have seen.
However, we were slightly disappointed to see that the range of sizes is nowhere near as generous as the previous vest we looked at. But the great breathability and the internal mesh panels do make it super comfortable. What’s more, it comes in a choice of colors so you can match it to what you’re already wearing.
3. TechKewl 6626 Phase Change Cooling Vest
The TechKewl cooling vest is made from 100% cotton, so if you’re looking for something comfortable and breathable then this is a great option. There is a thermal lining to maximise cooling, although this one will only keep you cool for between two and three hours.
The vest comes with four inserts as well as a cooling bag which means you can recharge the inserts on the go; that’s extremely convenient. What’s more, it’s really lightweight at just 2lbs, so wearing it while you’re doing activities means you won’t be weighed down.
4. Home Innovations Cooling Vest
This gel cooling vest from Home Innovations is seriously impressive. It is designed to be worn over clothing; just a thin layer like a T-shirt underneath will be more than sufficient. You’ll get around three hours of cooling out of this vest which is pretty standard.
The improved technology of this vest claims to make the cooling effect last longer, but we don’t think this is the case. As we mentioned, three hours is what you’d expect, but it’s still plenty long enough for most people.
The Home Innovations cooling vest comes in a choice of sizes from small to 2XL. While this isn’t the most expansive selection compared to things like the FlexiFreeze, there are several ways to adjust the vest to get a good fit, which we love.
5. Alphacool Ice Cooling Vest
If you’re not looking to break the bank when buying a cooling vest then this one from Alphacool really hits all the right notes. While you do only get around 2 hours of cooling from this one, you do get 20 inserts so when one set of six has done its job, you can quickly replace them to continue the cooling effect.
What we really loved about this cooling vest was how well made it is. The material feels durable, and the zipper closure is incredibly secure. What’s more, there are adjustable Velcro shoulders and straps around the sides of the vest so you can get the perfect fit.