Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Technology of Cooling Vests

Cooling down at a cost: how cooling vests saved my life and ruined my undershirt.

This past weekend I volunteered for Bike MS and was amazed at how many cooling options they offered for people with MS. From an RV with air conditioning decorated like a snowy winter wonderland to cooling vests, and everything in between, they really acknowledged how hard it was for bikers and volunteers with MS to be out in the heat.

But I'm left wondering, isn't there a better way to cool down? The cooling vest that I used was a blue vest soaked in ice water. It felt amazing and immediately helped my symptoms, but literally left me sitting in a wet t-shirt. Worse, the blue of the vest and blue volunteer t-shirt left my undershirt permanently stained blue. Sure, a blue-ish shirt isn't the end of the world, but it was an expensive price to pay just to cool down.

There are other types of cooling vests available that, instead of being soaked in ice water, come with pouches to place ice packs in. I tried a neck-wrap that used ice-packs, but after the ice packs had long melted the thick, black material became more of a heating pad. And it was a long, hot walk from my volunteer post back to the supply of ice packs.

Isn't there a better way? I remember at my undergraduate university I met a girl who was making a cooling bra with tubes of water that circulated to keep the bra cool for the woman wearing it. Why is she not making millions of dollars selling this to people with MS?

While I hope there are better options out there, I am excited to say that the current technology is available for free to people with MS who make a certain income or less. If anyone reading this needs cooling gear visit I hope to be blogging again soon about better options, but for now this is the best we've got.

Stay cool and out of the heat!

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