A Minnesota summer often means enjoying time outdoors and soaking up the sun—but for wheelchair users, the heat can present some challenges.
As a caregiver, it's important to ensure the safety and comfort of your loved one during the hot summer months. By taking a few extra precautions, you can keep your client cool while still enjoying the beautiful outdoors.
Staying Cool in Summer
Here are some wheelchair safety tips to help you navigate the summer heat!
Dehydration can be a serious concern during hot weather. Ensure your loved one has access to cold water and electrolyte drinks throughout the day. Plus, not all liquids are created equal! Try to limit caffeinated beverages as they can contribute to dehydration.
Use Portable Cooling Devices
Another way you can keep cool, wheelchair users included, is to invest in a portable fan or mist device. You can attach these devices to the wheelchair to enjoy a cool breeze, helping your loved one stay comfortable.
Try Other Cooling Accessories
If a mist device or fan isn’t cutting it, consider using an evaporative towel or a cooling vest. These accessories help keep body temperatures down. They can also provide relief from the summer heat for your loved one.
Plan Activities Wisely
Avoid going outdoors during the hottest part of the day, typically between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. in Minnesota. Instead, plan activities earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when the temperatures tend to be cooler.
If you must be outside during the hottest hours of the day, seek out shaded areas or places with air conditioning to ensure your loved one stays cool.
Dress Appropriately for the Heat
Encourage your loved one to wear white or light-colored, loose-fitting cotton clothing. These materials reflect the sun's rays and allow for better air circulation, keeping them cool throughout the day. You can also remind them to wear a hat and sunglasses.
Chill the Wrists and Neck
If it’s hotter than usual, you can help your cooldown by applying a cold cloth or ice pack to their wrists and the back/sides of their neck. These areas have pulse points; therefore, cooling them can provide instant relief from the summer heat.
Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke
Even if you take all of these precautions, it’s still important to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Awareness of these symptoms can help you take immediate action and prevent serious health complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's crucial to educate yourself on the warning signs of heat-related illnesses, including:
- Heat exhaustion: This can be identified by symptoms, such as heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and fainting. If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, immediately cool them down. Move them to a shaded or air-conditioned area, provide cool water to drink, and apply cold compresses to their forehead and neck.
- Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. It occurs when the body's temperature regulation system fails, and the body overheats to dangerous levels. Signs of heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 103°F), rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, confusion, seizures, and even loss of consciousness. In case of heat stroke, call 911 right away.
Find More Caregiving Resources
At Best Care, we understand the unique challenges family caregivers and PCAs face. As a result, we are always here to help answer your questions and provide support when you need it. We hope you stay cool and enjoy the summer with these wheelchair safety tips!