How to stay safe and cool during a heatwave

Posted on

During the colder months of the year, it’s easy to dream of summer, BBQs, spending time outside in the sunshine, and all of the other fun activities we get to enjoy during the warmer months of the year.

By the time summer rolls around we are so, so ready for some sunshine (especially for the WheelAir team here in Scotland!).

While preparations for seasons vary (our 6 tips for handling winter in a wheelchair are not super helpful for the hottest months of the year!) – summer’s heat-waves can catch us off guard and have some very serious health consequences! Here’s are some tips for how to stay safe and cool during a heatwave.

“It is really important for people to try to stay cool during the summer heat and especially during heat waves, because heat can kill people and it can make people sick, and that includes even healthy young folks and athletes,” said Kim Knowlton, assistant clinical professor in environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

What are the risks during a heatwave?

The main risks posed by a heatwave are:

• not having enough water (dehydration)
• overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Our research shows that with a normal backrest on an active wheelchair, the back temperature already rises on average 2.2 ̊C or 7% after 30 minutes. That’s just with normal use, not during a heat-wave or in warmer climates! Studies show those suffering from neurological conditions such as Cerebral Palsy (CP), Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) struggle most with thermal management as well as needing adequate postural support. So with all of this in mind, here are some top tips for staying cool and safe during heatwaves!

Stay safe and cool this summer during a heatwave!

Cool your body down

Dress in loose, light and light-colored clothing. Natural materials such as 100 percent cotton and linen allow your skin to breathe more than other fabrics

Eat lighter cold foods such as salads, low-fat dairy or frozen treats. And contrary to what one might expect, spicy foods can end up cooling you down because they make you sweat.

Don’t use your oven or stove, instead, if you can, grill outside or choose the microwave or toaster so your house stays cooler.

Stay hydrated!! Drink a lot of water, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you. Keep bottles of water in the freezer, so when the ice melts, you’ll have ice-cold water on hand.
Exercise in the early morning or in the evening when it’s cooler, and stay in the shade. If you can’t, shorten your workout time and/or reduce your exertion.

Keep your feet cool- There are plenty of pulse points around the feet and ankles, so dunking your feet into an ice bucket can help take your temperature down. Even if you can’t feel it due to a SCI- the cooling effects will still work!

WheelAir can replace your current wheelchair backrest and provide cooling airflow and better postural support! Within the first three minutes, user’s back temperature decreases  by an average of 7% (2.2º), and within 30 minutes, by 16%. Imagine the cooling relief, all day, every day!

Buy a hot water bottle. During summer, stick it in the freezer to create a bed-friendly ice pack.

Keep your home as cool as possible will also keep you more comfortable and cool!

Use fans and AC – either cool down the space with AC or create refreshing airflow with fans!

Keep the blinds closed. It may seem obvious but the majority of the heat that comes into your home comes via the windows, as much as 30% of the heat that warms up your home. An easy way to beat the heat is to keep the curtains or blinds closed during the day, it may darken the room, but it can reduce the heat in your home by up to 20%.This is especially true if you have south facing windows, where the heat is most prevalent.

Create some indoor airflow – If you have all of the internal doors closed where you live, then this will create that stuffy feeling of warm air in your home. It’s best to create airflow throughout your home, so open up all of you internal doors to let the cooler air flow through.

Looking to get out of the house? Visit air-conditioned public spaces such as malls, movie theatres, and libraries to keep cool.