We’re heading out to a family party tonight, and despite the lower-than-normal June weather today, getting overheated is always something that scares me. I have come close a few times to being pretty sick from the heat, and it may not be something that everyone realizes can happen so quickly for someone with an injury like mine.
Spinal cord injuries affect people in very different ways, depending on what level and how severe the injury is. Mine usually leaves me feeling cold, even on the hottest of days.
One commonality among most SCI ,though, is the body’s inability to sweat. The internal thermometer can be damaged (and normally is), which explains why most spinal cord injury survivors are seen wearing jackets in summertime. This is why I sit in front of a space heater in my already-warm office. It can be so hard to feel and stay warm.
The opposite is also true. Summertime heat and humidity can be very uncomfortable and dangerous to persons with SCI. Our inability to control temperature coupled with the inability to sweat can quickly cause heat-related stresses.
1. Drink lots of cool water prior to going out in the heat.
Sometimes drinking lots of water all the time is hard for me. I know it’s good for me in the long run, especially with bladder infections happening what seems to be every other week. Water is especially important though if you are going to be outside. You’ll stay hydrated and get ahead of the temperature regulation before you’re even out in the heat.
2. Keep a mister with you.
I am sure you have seen them before. It’s basically a water bottle with a fan on it, and let me tell you, it works. It keeps your skin moist when it needs it most, and it is a super inexpensive way of keeping cool.
3. Shade. Shade. Shade. Meds can cause severe sunburn also.
Stay out of the direct sun if you can avoid it. I have made the mistake of spending all afternoon out in the open sun while on antibiotics, and I paid for it for almost a week later. Saying that antibiotics (and some other medications) can increase your risk of sunburn is an understatement. Learn from my mistake.
4. Wet your clothes.
I don’t mean that you have to be running around dumping bottles of water over your head, but if you are somewhere that you can wear a wet rag around your neck and keep the collar of your shirt damp, go for it. A little bit can make a big difference.
5. Wear light-colored loose-fitting clothing.
Cotton is best because it’s light and usually loose and can get wet and dry quickly. All the things you want for a hot summer’s day.
We all know that summers can be brutal, especially depending on where you are. Here in Kansas, it gets hot and humid and sticky, and then it rains, which makes it even more hot and humid and sticky.
If at all possible, make sure you have an inside place to hide from the heat, but if that’s not a possibility, take precautions. Take care of yourself and make sure others do the same.