4 environmental considerations I keep in mind with MG

Air quality, temperature, terrain, and stress all command my attention

Shawna Barnes avatar

by Shawna Barnes |

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Because of myasthenia gravis (MG), not only do I have to keep track of the food I eat, the amount I talk, and the schedule for my treatment plan, but I also must pay attention to everything around me. Some days it’s all overwhelming, and I wish I could throw in the towel.

But then I remember that sulking doesn’t do me a bit of good. So I thought I’d share the Top 4 environmental considerations that are most important for me to track when my MG is acting a fool.

No. 1: Air quality

I can thank the Canadian wildfire smoke that’s made its way over to me in northern Wisconsin for this timely reminder. I experience air hunger because of weakness in my diaphragm and accessory muscles, which are part of my MG symptoms. When the air quality is junk, I have a harder time breathing and will use my BiPAP machine during the day, more often than normal. I’ve had to rescind RSVPs to many events because they were outdoors and the air quality was poor.

One way I manage air quality issues is by having air purifiers in my home and office. I also limit the amount of time I spend outside.

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No. 2: Temperature

I’m astounded by the number of acquaintances I have who live in the South or other areas where high temperatures are the norm. I experience increased fatigue, weakness, air hunger, and a drooping right eyelid when the temperature gets above 80 F. As my treatment continues to improve, heat is one external factor I’ve been able to worry about less, as I’m now able to tolerate warmer temperatures with fewer issues.

I beat the heat by wearing an ice vest, drinking something cold with lots of ice (while being careful to avoid brain freeze), and limiting my time outside. This environmental caution is the hardest for me since I used to love being outdoors on a lake as a lifeguard and swim instructor. Those were the good old days!

No. 3: The actual environment

As silly as it sounds, I take into account the environment when deciding if an event or activity is something I can do. How far will I have to walk? Is the terrain even and flat or rocky, hilly, or uneven? Once I identify the environment, I’ll decide on the type of mobility aid I might need.

I have permanent disabled license plates so I can use accessible parking spots, regardless of the type of mobility aid I deem necessary for the proposed activity. Parking as close as I can to my destination so I can limit the unnecessary steps I’ll take is one way I combat the environment. Whatever the situation dictates, I use any and every mobility aid that is available to me, from a cane to a wheelchair, so that I can live my best life.

No. 4: Stress

This environmental factor is one that I wish I’d learned to better control earlier on this journey. Stress wreaks havoc on the body and can trigger symptom flares. There’s “good” stress and “bad” stress, but either can make MG symptom expression more pronounced.

Removing or reducing negative stressors is easier said than done. I finally decided that my health was more important than keeping up with drama or trying to make people understand or accept my side of a situation. I created boundaries and stick to them. It’s been difficult, but it’s improved my quality of life significantly.

There’s definitely a lot to take into account as part of simply living with myasthenia gravis, but I hope that identifying the top four environmental issues I give my attention, along with how I work through or around them, will make them less of a burden for me and others.

Do you agree with my environmental considerations, or do you have others? Let me know in the comments below!

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


Frank Mikus avatar

Frank Mikus

Excellent perspective on what affects us
There’s the need for continual situational awareness and time to enjoy the good things that we can

Lorraine Ludwico Stevens avatar

Lorraine Ludwico Stevens

I totally agree with the post on environmental effects on MG I’m highly affected by temperature changes but mostly heat living in Fl is difficult I’m mostly indoors in the AC .
Fumes , air quality all affect me .
Great post !
Thank you !

Wayne Eisen avatar

Wayne Eisen

Dear Shawna -

What is wonderful article you provide. Thank you for describing the challenges so many of us deal with, and the ways we can overcome them!
Best wishes, Wayne



Some house hold cleaning supplies and air fresheners also effects my air hunger


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