Summer Heat vs. Physical Disabilities
It should come as no surprise to anyone that summer in the northern hemisphere can get extremely hot. This can be dangerous and even lethal, as people desperately try to escape the heat. Perhaps the most vulnerable are individuals with physical disabilities, as their limited mobility inhibits their ability to seek appropriate shelter or refreshment in a timely manner. Furthermore, temperatures are expected to rise annually, as scientists confirm that global warming is becoming an increasing threat to our planet. As such, let’s take a look at what to look out for, as well as steps to take to beat the heat.
Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke
The CDC reports that there are over 650 heat-related deaths annually in the U.S. And there’s an important distinction to be made when talking about heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion is when the body sweats out water and salt, effectively diminishing the otherwise safe levels of these chemicals necessary to sustain life and maintain homeostasis. Moreover, some physical disabilities, especially those brought about by spinal cord injuries, prohibit the body’s natural ability to sweat, which means the individual cannot safely and effectively cool down naturally. It’s advised that you limit the time spent outside in the sun, and only go out during the cooler hours of the day – morning or late afternoon/evenings are perfect. Heat stroke, on the other hand, is the body’s inability to regulate, maintain, and control its temperature due to prolonged exposure. Thus, it’s the biggest risk to health, as it can damage the brain, heart, and kidneys if gone untreated.
- Signs – Here’s what to look for in terms of heat exhaustion:
- Excessive sweating
- Dizziness, fainting, weakness, tiredness
- Cramping, headache, nausea and/or vomiting
- Treatment – There are ways to treat heat exhaustion, before it turns into the potentially-fatal heat stroke:
- Stay hydrated with water, while avoiding sugary drinks, especially alcohol
- Change into clothing of lighter material
- Take a cool bath or shower, or sit or lie down in an air-conditioned room
- Rapid heart rate, headache, skin (red, hot, and dry), body temperature exceeds 104 ℉, nausea
- Dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness
- Treatment – If you notice someone exhibiting the above signs:
- Seek immediate medical help (i.e. call 911 immediately)
- Get them out of the sun and under shade
- DO NOT give them water or other fluids to drink
- Cool off the person with a cool shower or bath, or spray them with a garden hose if you can’t access a shower
- Until medical help arrives, continue to monitor their temperature and follow the methods above
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day
- To replace the salt lost in sweating, drink sports drinks or take salt tablets. Consult with your doctor first if you’re on a low-salt diet
- Use sunscreen that’s high in SPF regularly and dress appropriately
- Avoid the sun at peak hours and go inside to an air conditioned room every so often
- Check the weather regularly
- Use the buddy system – children and elderly ages 65 and older are most prone to heat-related illnesses.
Enjoy the summer, but be safe in doing so. Beat the heat by using the preventative methods outlined above. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. Stay vigilant of those around you and help them as best as you can.
At ILCNSCA, we know how much people love getting out during summer to enjoy the beautiful weather. Living independently allows you to do so! For all your disability and independent living needs, contact ILCNSCA by phone at 978-741-0077, or visit our website at https://ilcnsca.org/.
This post was written by Sperling