Summer is a wonderful time when kids are out of school and vacations are planned, but for those living with spinal cord disabilities, summer can be filled with dangers of which the average person is unaware. According to the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission, “Impairment of temperature regulation is a recognized problem in SCI. What makes it worse is that, if you have SCI, you may not be aware of the problem until it is too late.”

Take precautions! The ASCC suggests maintaining a balance between heat production and heat loss. Heat stroke can occur if the core temperature rises too much. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, confusion, difficulty breathing, or passing out. Immediate medical attention may be required if these symptoms occur, but in the meantime, try to cool the person off by getting them into the shade or air conditioning, apply water to the skin via cool rags or spray bottles, and massage the skin above the injury to stimulate blood flow.

You can survive the season with these summer tips from the ASCC:

  1. Air conditioning is your friend, especially as the temperature rises above 90. Have an accessible air-conditioned location nearby, be it a home, office, or automobile.
  2. Alcohol is not your friend. It decreases your awareness of the heat. Stay alert!
  3. Dress in light layers that are easy to remove and stay in the shade.
  4. Water, water, and more water! Drink it, mist your skin with a spray bottle, and apply cool compresses to the back of your neck.
  5. Don’t overexert yourself. That sounds simple enough, but when you’re having fun you may forget on a hot day. Use technology to help. Set your phone timer to remind you to take a break.
  6. Pay attention to other people. If they’re sweating or complaining about the heat, then you probably need to do a double check of your situation. Maybe move to a cooler environment or pull out a battery-operated fan.

“An ‘average temperature environment’ can vary, but a comfortable range for individuals with SCI is generally between 72-74 degrees but you can enjoy higher or lower temperatures with preparation,” says Nurse Linda with the Reeve Foundation, who shares additional tips from the foundation which may be helpful for those with spinal cord injuries or those caring for others with SCI.

Because of the spinal cord injury, your body may not be telling itself to shed heat normally below the area of the injury. So you may not feel it until it’s too late and your core temperature has risen. Play it safe this summer!