How Warm Weather is Dangerous for People with Disabilities (+6 Tips to Stay Safe)

Wheelchair on Beach

Along with snowmen and icicles, winter increases the risk of frostbite, increased joint stiffness and pain, and hypothermia.  However, even with winter over, there are still some weather risks we should all be aware of. The warmer weather can present different but equally dangerous problems.

With hot weather, everyone is at risk for dehydration, heat stroke, and other heat-related issues. People with certain disabilities may be at a higher risk in hotter temperatures.  The sunshine is meant to be enjoyed, but be sure to follow these tips so that your spring and summer are not only fun, but safe.

Who’s at Risk?

The truth is that everyone is at risk for things like heat stroke, sunburns, and dehydration when the temperatures climb. But people with disabilities or health problems have an increased risk of running into these issues.  Many disabilities, like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), increase a person’s sensitivity to heat. The body normally cools itself through sweating, but when humidity is high or when disabilities restrict this regulation, the body can quickly overheat and suffer from heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if not treated promptly by an emergency team. Be sure to keep hydrated and take lots of breaks if you are doing any physical activities.

Disabilities or medications that make you or your skin more sensitive to sunlight can also create serious issues in the warmer weather.  For example, lupus can cause inflammation in several  organs that can be triggered by exposure to ultraviolet light. Though we want everyone to enjoy Utah’s beautiful outdoors this summer, be sure to wear sunblock, wear a hat,  and reduce sun exposure if you have a disease that increases your sensitivity to light.

What can I do to reduce risks?

Though certain disabilities may have a lower heat or sun exposure tolerance, everyone can take measures to protect yourself from warm weather risks. Keeping yourself cool and protecting yourself from the dangers of the sun can help reduce the risk of sunburns, heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat rash, and dehydration.  These preventative measures can also reduce the risk of future diseases, such as skin cancer.

During the summer months, get back to the basics. Try these tips to keep cool:

Know before you get outdoors

Often, disabilities and illnesses can affect our day to day lives in unexpected ways. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know all the health risks that come with your condition.  Be sure to ask your doctor about potential risks you might have with your disability or illness.  Ask them how you can avoid those risks.  Then, be sure to follow their directions.

Also, research your condition on your own. Ask people with similar health issues how they beat the heat. Find techniques that work best for you while still allowing you to enjoy the summer.

Wear sunscreen

You might have heard rumors that some sunscreens cause melanoma, lead to vitamin D deficiency, or even interfere with your hormone levels.  But, doctors have debunked these common sunscreen myths.

It’s important to always wear some sort of UV protection, even when you aren’t spending all day at the pool.  Even short periods of sun exposure can damage your skin. Try purchasing a daily moisturizer that has UV protection so you can incorporate some protection in your daily routine. Also remember that sunblock fades, so be sure to reapply it regularly.

Drink and keep drinking

Up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.  Dehydration is no small thing, and the side effects can be deadly.  Try making some of these fruit and herb infused waters to keep you and your kids hydrated with healthy flavored water, instead of drinks with added sugars.

Alter your diet (slightly)

During the warmer weather you lose salt through sweat. Don’t replace this lost mineral through salt licks, but through your diet.  Drinking sports drinks and clear juices while you are working or exercising outdoors can help get your salt levels and electrolytes back to normal in a natural way.

Watch your wardrobe

There’s no rule against wearing white before Labor Day. In fact, it’s smart.

Wearing lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored fabrics can help keep your body cool when it’s hot outside. But just because these fabrics are lightweight does not mean they should be short and leave lots of skin uncovered.  You can actually stay cooler and more protected by staying covered.

Make a Plan

Learn the boy scout motto by heart and follow it: “Be prepared.” If you have serious disabilities or health problems, the best thing you can do to stay healthy in hot or cold weather is to always have a plan. If you are going to spend a lot of time outdoors, know what to expect.  Bring plenty of water, extra food, a hat and sunglasses, sunblock, and extra layers of clothes.  It’s also smart to carry a basic first aid kit with you as a general practice.

We hope this can give you some tips about staying safe in summer’s hot temperatures. If you would like more information on navigating the legal aspects and benefits of a disability, we are here to help. Visit us for a free consultation or for more information, and be sure to have a safe and happy summer.

 

Photo courtesy of Kyle Pearce via Flickr