Summer Safety Tips for Wheelchair Users

July 24, 2020

It’s officially summer and, while we all may be itching to get outdoors after weeks of cool weather and quarantine, it’s important to brush up on some safety measures that will keep you healthy while having fun in the sun. Pete Gagliardo, Helen Hayes Hospital’s Adapted Sports Program Coordinator and Vice President of the United Spinal Hudson Valley Chapter, has some great summer safety tips that are especially helpful for wheelchair users. Follow these tips for a safe and enjoyable summer!

  • Hydrate: One of the most important things to do during the summer is to stay hydrated. When it’s hot outside, you’re more likely to sweat so it’s essential to replenish your fluids to avoid dehydration. There are some hands-free or mostly hands-free

    water bottles that can be attached to your wheelchair including Fleximugs and Camelbak hydration packs. Fleximugs, for example, are designed for individuals with disabilities and have bendable straws in all different sizes so it can be customized to fit your needs.

  • Stay Cool: Individuals with disabilities, including those with a spinal cord injury, are more likely to have difficulty regulating their body temperature. If you have a disability that limits your ability to sweat, wearing lightweight and breathable clothing will keep you cool and dry. You can also try using cooling towels or bandanas like Frogg Toggs that, once wet, can be applied to your neck or head and anywhere on your body below your level of injury to instantly cool you down and help regulate your body temperature.
  • Sunscreen: Be sure to use SPF when outdoors, especially on the knees and feet if they are exposed. These areas can be burned very easily when you are in a seated position, such as being in a wheelchair. You can also wear a visor or hat to protect your face and the top of your head.
  • Wear a lifejacket: If you are planning on going in a pool or lake, be sure to swim with a lifejacket on or with a pool noodle. This will help you float in the water with less effort and will provide you with stability.
  • Be careful of sand: If you plan on going to the beach, be mindful of hot sand. It can burn your skin if you sit on the sand or if you bear your weight on your hands or feet. Before you leave the beach for the day, make sure to rinse yourself thoroughly. The sand can stick to you, especially if it is wet, and be abrasive to your skin even as it dries.
  • Bring a change of dry clothes: Be sure to change out of wet clothing because wearing wet or damp clothes for a long period of time can lead to skin breakdown. It is also important to not sit on a wet cushion in your wheelchair for an extended period of time because this can also lead to skin breakdown.