Summer is definitely here. This usually means beaches, running through sprinklers, ice cream, and thongs, but for people with a disability, the heat can be especially hard.
Here are 8 tips from our blogger, Melissa, on how to keep cool. Melissa is a Physiotherapist, Pilates and Yoga teacher; and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) a few years back.
Everyone is affected by the heat, but for people with a disability, the heat can also be tricky for a few reasons – damage to the normal cooling mechanism of the body such as sweating; medications that increase heat or sunlight sensitivity; being unable to afford air conditioning; or needing support to stay hydrated or being aware of the need to do this.
Many people with MS also experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the weather is hot or humid, or they have a fever.
For me, this means summer crawls into my life – wreaking havoc, leaving me exhausted and nauseous, collapsed under a fan, decorated in wet towels with a spray bottle hanging from one hand, and counting the days until the temperature drops and I can crawl out of hibernation.
Some days I’m well enough to forget I have this “monkey on my back,” but as the temperature rises, that monkey unpacks his suitcase and is here to stay.
Because of my MS, I need to modify my life to be able to do all the things I love. For anyone struggling with the heat as I am – here are 8 things that I find helpful during summer:
I like wearing a cooling scarf around my neck when I exercise or on those very hot days. I have a few of them so I can colour coordinate, of course! You can also get cooling hats, vests and even bras! To use them, you put them in water, and the gel inside holds cool temperatures for long periods of time – you can even put them in the fridge to make them extra frosty. Your pharmacist, physio or doctor may be able to help you find these.
Sounds simple but fans and air conditioning are wonderful. I don’t have air conditioning so on really hot days I have been known to go to the movie theatre to enjoy the air conditioning there.
Find trees, hats, lightweight devices such as umbrellas that can be clamped to the side of the wheelchair – whatever works for you to stay out of the direct sunlight if you have to go out.
Choose a lower thread count for your cotton sheets. Whilst you may equate high thread count with luxury, in fact, the higher the thread count, the more tightly knit and less breathable the fabric is. Consider your mattress choice as well – some memory foam or latex mattresses with a high content of synthetic rather than natural fibres will feel hotter. You can also find cooling pillows and a cooling bed pad that sits on the top of your mattress and prevents a build-up of body heat.
This is something I’m not always very good at – but avoiding the hottest part of the day (10-3pm) really does help. Whilst I would love to be an early riser, I’m not, so I save any exercise for the afternoon or evening when the sun’s not so hot. Also, because my brain can be a little foggy in the afternoon heat, I save important tasks for the mornings or evenings when I’m fresh.
My wardrobe is stocked with lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres (I like cotton or linen).
My freezer is stocked with frozen grapes, icy poles and frozen water bottles. I also have an empty water bottle in my car in case I forget to bring one with me to stay hydrated. The frozen ones are my favourite though, as I can cool myself down quickly by placing it on my wrists or neck.
Huh? How could yoga possibly be used to keep me cool? I love to use a technique called Sitali or Sitkari breathing to cool me down and nearly everybody can do this. The practice involves curling your tongue, as if you are drinking in air through a straw (or resting your tongue behind your front teeth if you find this difficult), and breathing in deeply- allowing the air to move over your moist tongue, before breathing out through your nose. I find this cooling not only for my body but also my mind which is good if I’m sitting in a traffic jam!
There is no right or wrong way to keep you cool this summer. Talk to your physio, doctor or other health professional for more ideas and to help you decide what is going to work best for you or your loved one.
I hope these tips have got you thinking of ways to make your summer more comfortable!