Summer is here, in full swing – and as I have mentioned, heat can completely mess with my body – leaving me with blurry vision, a fog filled mind (like I am more than slightly drunk) and less than stable legs. Yet, I love the summer! I love being outside and soaking up the sun (good ole’ vitamin D.) I live in a climate that doesn’t tend to get too hot, but I’ve learned it doesn’t take much for my body to begin to overheat and have all the symptoms of Uhthoff’s Phenomenon kick in. In the past, my solutions have always been an end-game run. After I overheat, after things get bad, then I try and cool down. Whether it’s filling the doggie pool with water and plopping my ass down right next to a slobbery snout or two, or jumping in the lake, I try and fix the problem only after it has occurred.
That is until last summer – when I was getting ready to put my house on the market, and there were millions of things to get done, and no time to lolly-gag at the lake or basque in the pool with the pooches. I had painting and sanding and landscaping to do. So I hit the internet and found a bunch of products that were geared towards keeping me cool. I’ve written an article for Healthline about each of these things and will most definitely share it with you when it goes live.
But in the meantime I want to tell you about something that I got this spring. Something that I honestly thought I would never try. A cooling vest. Now to be fair, I didn’t go out in search of it. “They” (Thermapparel) found me. They are in the process of rolling out a new product “UnderCool.” On their website it says “It is our mission to create lightweight cooling garments with discretion in mind.” A cooling vest is not something I was in the market for, but now that I have found relief from the chronic pain, and am experiencing a better quality of life (aka I am actually getting out and doing things again) when I read this:
“We especially hope our garments will increase comfort and decrease fatigue during exercise and forms of physical therapy so that users can increase and improve their health and quality of life in day to day activities.”
I thought, sure, maybe a cooling vest might help me. Plus, they were sending it to me “gratis” for my honest and candid review – so why not give it a shot?
(Shawn is a fan because it makes my boobs look even bigger – he says I might need to change the name of the blog to BBBH – for BIG BOOBS, BOOTS & HAIR)
My first impression upon opening the package was that it seemed much slimmer than other cooling vests I have seen It is easy to put on and off, with two large velcro strips in the front, which can be adjusted for fit and comfort. Having glanced at the sizing chart, I thought I would go with a medium, given my heftier proportions these days, but I am glad I listened to Crystal and went with the small, I don’t think I would want it any bigger.
I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t make me look bulky. Actually, given the fact that it secures across your belly, with those two velcro straps, it actually acts as a corset of sorts, but not uncomfortable in any way. Just tucked my wiggles and jiggles in a bit!
Not having worn a cooling vest before I had a few concerns:
Worry ONE- That the fabric of the shoulder straps would begin to “roll up” and jam in the buckle (ladies, think of an old bra that’s seen better days – the strap can get twisted and it can be a pain in the ass.) I have worn the vest numerous times over the past two months and although there is some slipping it has not impeded my activities or caused rubbing or chaffing.
Worry TWO- Cleaning/caring for the vest. Let’s be honest – with three very large man-child’s home for the summer and our septic tank having chronic issues, staying on top of the massive piles of laundry is not always possible. So I feared I would wear my vest once or twice and then it would be delegated to the dreaded pile, only to be re-discovered months from now. But instead of pulling out the cooling packs, I have left them in, washed the vest (packs and all) in a bucket with a small amount of detergent, rinsed and hung to dry over night – it works great, dries quickly and is ready to go back into the freezer in just a few hours.
Worry THREE – While perusing their website, I read the review that Dave Bexfield over at Active MSers had left. He mentioned that getting the cooling packs in and out of the vest had proven a bit challenging. In my conversation with the folks at Thermppearal they mentioned that they had made a fix to that issue, but I still worried that if I got them out and then couldn’t get them back in, it would make the “cooling” part of the vest a lot less effective.
So, I took David’s suggestion and put the whole thing in the freezer (packs still in the vest) and it works great! The only warning I would give here is, make sure that the cooling packs are laying flat, otherwise, you may end up with an odd shaped pack. In my case, one of the packs was all bunched up and dug into my side, which proved to be rather annoying when I was trying to reel a fish in.
What have I done while wearing the vest and has it helped with my body temperature and all the MS heat-related bullshit?
I often wear it on my walks and hikes with the dogs and it definitely does help keep the fog and blurry vision at bay. At the gym – it does help, but not for as long or as well as I would like it too. But it is pretty hot in there, to begin with, and I’m not just taking a stroll on the treadmill. The fact that it isn’t doing much after 50 minutes on the Stairmaster or elliptical really isn’t shocking. We have been out fishing on the boat a few times, and wearing the vest while in the sun, waiting for the elusive fish to come visit has really helped – that and the fact that I tend to dump a bucket of seawater over my legs and feet every 20 minutes or so:)
But here is where I am loving the vest the most – our house is well shaded and tends to stay cool in the earlier half of the day, but by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, it’s pretty toasty. I try and get house and yard work done in the mornings, but there is often more to do, and I have to wimp out. But putting the vest on in the afternoon to go out and weed the garden, paint the front door, or even try and tackle the infamous laundry pile really helps. Doing these types of activities (less strenuous than a full on workout at the gym) the effects of the cooling seem to last between 90 minutes to 2 hours (depending on the day’s temperature.)
It did cross my mind that maybe if I had TWO vests (like Dave mentions in his review) I could then get twice the amount of stuff done around here. Wear one, while the other chills, then swap them out. But then reality and truth set in and I realized that after 90 minutes to 2 hours of work, putting a new, cold vest on really isn’t going to do much for me because I will have inevitably reached my limit of activity for a while and need to sit down and rest. So I rest while the vest chills.
All in all, I have been impressed with the vest and much to my surprise I have been using it on a regular basis! We are about to head off to the East Coast for a week at the beach and although what I take is going to be extremely limited given the “wonderful” airlines insisting I pay to check bags, I will be packing the vest. My preferred method of cooling off is still (and will always be) jumping into the water – and many of the things we will be doing (paddle boarding, kayaking, clamming, fishing) involve being on or in the water, but there are things I have avoided in years past because of the heat (attending the farmers market, hiking on the bluffs, the Agricultural Fair.) I am excited to try the vest and see if I can once again enjoy these things without my vision going to shit and my mind blurring.
According to their website “cooling apparel may qualify for insurance coverage as Durable Medical Equipment.” They provide information and offer steps to try and make the process as easy as possible for you. I encourage you to check them out if you think a vest might be helpful! Little did I know that I would love mine as much as I do!
**Thermappearal provided me with a vest to try out. I have no affiliation with this company, nor do I receive any compensation from them. All opinions expressed are based on my personal experience with the product.**
**This is my personal blog and all opinions are my own. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one here on my blog. The content here is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. Be sure to contact your doctor before trying any new medications/vitamins/supplements, physical activities or therapies **