Summer is the time of year many wheelchair users enjoy the outdoors. There are a variety of activities such as sports, camping, fishing and simply enjoying a picnic at the park with your friends and family. Depending on where you are located, the summer heat can cause some issues that could keep you hiding indoors. Be prepared to beat the summer heat and enjoy the sunshine with the following summer safety tips for wheelchair users.
- Use Sunscreen – The use of sunscreen has become a daily option for many people. Those who don’t use sunscreen can feel symptoms such as redness of the skin, peeling, itching, tightness, and burning. This summer remember to use a sunscreen that has an SPF 30 or higher. Reapply the sunscreen throughout the day by following the directions on the label for continuous coverage.
- Dress Appropriate – If you are expecting to spend time outdoors on a hot summer day make sure you dress appropriately. Wearing loose cotton clothing helps keep your skin cool throughout the day. Sandals are an excellent choice instead of sneakers.
- Drink Water – Drinking plenty of water will help prevent dehydration and heat stroke during the summer. Don’t depend on water fountains to be available because most are not wheelchair accessible. Instead, bring along your own bottled water to help stay hydrated and cool.
- Beware of Dehydration – You will be surprised how quickly a person can become dehydrated when exposed to hot weather. Beware of dehydration symptoms such as a dry mouth, excessive thirst, sticky mouth, dry skin, headache and decreased urine output.
- Learn the Signs of Heatstroke – People experience heat stroke without realizing it. You may have heatstroke if you are experiencing symptoms such as a high body temperature of 104 F or higher, unusual behavior, excessive sweating mixed with moments of cold chills, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing and a racing heart rate. If you are experiencing heatstroke symptoms drink water immediately and seek medical attention.
- Shield Yourself from the Sun – Most wheelchairs are made with plastic and metal surfaces. These items become extremely hot when in direct sunlight. To avoid burning your skin on the hot surfaces shield yourself with an umbrella or use things to cover up the metal and plastic areas on your wheelchair.
- Wear Gloves – This may sound like an odd suggestion but it is helpful if you have a manual wheelchair. Parts of the wheels can become hot when exposed to the sun. To protect your hands you will want to invest in a pair of driving gloves. Using the gloves will help prevent burns and blisters.
- Provide Maintenance for Your Wheelchair – Summertime is filled with fun and exciting activities. Your calendar will be filled with events that will keep you busy for months, causing you to forget to provide maintenance for your wheelchair. Nothing can ruin a fun summer day more than your wheelchair suddenly losing power or having an issue. Prevent yourself from getting stranded in the summer heat by doing a few DIY maintenance steps such as charging the battery and checking the tires, frame, breaks, and joystick.
- Beware of Beach Hazards – If you don’t own a beach wheelchair, most beaches will allow you to rent one for the day. Avoid using your manual or power wheelchair on the sand. It can cause sand and debris to get caught and stuck in areas of the wheelchair that could prevent it from working properly. This situation could leave you stranded on the beach for hours until the situation could be resolved. Inquire with your local beach for further details regarding wheelchair accessible areas and beach wheelchair rentals.
- Bring Backup Equipment – Camping is a popular activity that is enjoyed by many wheelchair users. Generally, a camping trip may last a few days to a week. Most camping locations have electric outlets at the campsites. Remember to bring backup equipment such as replacement parts, chargers, and batteries.
- Plan Summer Activities Carefully - Long exposure to extreme temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, and other issues. Plan your summer activities to allow you to be outdoors for a few hours at a time. Avoid spending all day in the direct summer heat, even if you are wearing sunscreen. Coordinate your schedule properly so each day you are exposed to the sun for a specific amount of time. Remember to seek shaded areas as frequently as possible or use a large umbrella to provide shade.
- Beware of Summer Rain - In most areas, rain is well known during the summer. These harsh summer showers can show up at any moment. Learn the daily weather forecast to try to avoid getting stuck in a rain storm. Always carry a raincoat or umbrella to protect you and your wheelchair from the rain and seek shelter during thunderstorms.
- Choose Indoor Activities - Summer heat is something that should be taken seriously. If your local weather station is reporting one of the hottest days of the year, stay indoors. If you were planning to go fishing or spend the day at the park, postpone the activity and spend the day indoors at the movie theater, mall or museum.
Remember to plan ahead, avoid harsh weather storms and protect your skin from sun damage. Carrying a raincoat and umbrella to shield yourself and your wheelchair from rain is a must when it comes to summer weather. Always seek immediate shelter from thunderstorms. To avoid boredom during harsh summer weather days, create an indoor summer activity list that will keep you busy. Enjoy a safe and active summer!