Summer is almost upon us, and that has many people gearing up for school to be out, traveling, and more outdoor adventures. If you know someone who has cerebral palsy, you may also be wondering if summer weather impacts cerebral palsy symptoms. The answer is “yes!” Changes in weather temperature can have a significant effect on individuals with cerebral palsy, and summer has some impacts that are more significant than other seasons.
How Does Summer Weather Impact Cerebral Palsy?
Weather can have a significant impact on how our bodies feel. Our joints and muscles often respond to changes in weather conditions, humidity, barometer, and other factors. For individuals with cerebral palsy, these weather-related changes can be debilitating. Involuntary movements can be worsened by humidity and heat, and joint stability and balance can be affected by increases in body temperature.
So, how do you prepare for summertime and work around possible impacts? Consider the following helpful tips from Jessica Grono, an author and educator who happens to have cerebral palsy:
- Air Conditioning: If the air conditioning is not turned on yet, keep a fan on nearby when sitting, standing, or using the bathroom. Grono says that she struggles with sitting and standing movements if she is too warm as her body spasms.
- Careful Dressing: Think carefully about your clothing. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can help moderate your body temperature and offer more comfort. Dark colors absorb heat, so avoid wearing dark clothing, especially if you plan to be outdoors. It is also advisable to wear a hat and use sunscreen, especially for children.
- Ice Cold Water: Drink lots of ice water. Drinking ice water can help lower your body’s temperature. Keep cold water on hand, and if you require the assistance of a wheelchair, invest in a water bottle with a long, flexible straw for easy access.
- Cold Foods: Eat chilled or frozen foods. If you are overheated, sometimes simply eating a cold snack like fruit or a salad can help you feel cooler. This is also a great way to enjoy healthy snacks, especially on-the-go.
- Use a Spray Bottle: If you are moving around a lot, traveling, or are planning to be outdoors, carry a spray bottle of cold water with you. If you feel overheated, you or someone with you can spray just enough cold water on you to cool you down. Aim for spots like the back of your neck, forehead, and arms.
- Take a Swim: Swimming is a great resource for someone with cerebral palsy. Not only is it a great way to cool down, but it also is a safe and effective way of getting exercise. Swimming does not put as much strain on your joints and muscles as other forms of exercise. Check your local gyms, YMCA, or other organizations to see if there are specialized swimming classes in your area.
Signs and Symptoms to Be Aware Of
Anyone is vulnerable to extreme temperatures and weather conditions, but individuals with conditions like cerebral palsy may be more susceptible due to limitations in movement, motor control, and sometimes speech. Individuals with cerebral palsy may not be able to adequately monitor and manage their body temperature without assistance. It is important that anyone with cerebral palsy, or anyone caring for someone with the condition, understands the risks of heat exposure.
Be mindful of the following signs and symptoms:
- Unresponsive or high fever
- Abnormal or unusual weakness
- Difficulty waking up
- Dark urine
- Pale skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Extensive sweating
Any of these symptoms could indicate heat exposure, which if left untreated, could have a detrimental impact on your health. If not properly treated, heat exposure can lead to heatstroke, which may cause:
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of sweating
- Red (flushed) skin
- Fever of 104 degrees or higher
If heat exposure symptom progress to this level, it is important to get medical attention right away.
Treating Heat Exposure or Heatstroke
Treatment of heat exposure should begin as soon as discomfort is noted. In mild cases, treatment may only consist of cooling the body down by moving into the shade or air conditioning, drinking sips of cold water, or taking a cool bath. Many people also find that wrapping a cool towel around their neck helps to lower their body temperature. If you are overheated, you should never drink alcohol or drinks containing caffeine.
In more severe cases, heat exposure or heatstroke may require medical attention for proper treatment. If you have taken steps to cool down body temperature but the fever does not abate, the individual begins to have seizures, or breathing becomes impaired, you should contact 911 immediately. You may also find it necessary to administer CPR. Parents or caregivers of individuals with cerebral palsy should be First Aid and CPR certified, and should be aware of any needed modifications based on the condition.
Learn More about Living with Cerebral Palsy
If you or someone you love has cerebral palsy, you want to know as much as possible about enjoying warm weather safely. To find out more, visit our website, or fill out our online form to ask our attorneys about cerebral palsy.