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Keeping Cool in the Heat


Outdoor summer health concerns for people who have a disability can go beyond bug bites and sun burn. The extreme heat and humidity can be a serious health concern for people who have certain conditions.

The Associate Medical Director of Pediatrics for Gillette Children's, Madeleine Gagnon, MD, has advice to make sure everyone can have fun in the sun.

A Gillette patient has fun at an adaptive water ski event.

Gillette recreation therapists periodically team up with the Shockwaves Adaptive Ski Squad to help kids have fun. 

Why can the heat and humidity be a big problem for people who have a disability?

  • Some disabilities make it difficult to regulate body temperature. For example, people who have certain types of spinal injuries can have a lower ability to sweat and therefore cool their body temperature.
  • Certain medications can make the effect of extreme heat worse.
  • Heat stroke is serious and needs medical attention. Symptoms include sweating, heat cramps, a loss of consciousness, confusion.

Anna Hendricksen and her daughter, Annika, try to relax and keep cool by a lake. Annika receives treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) at Gillette. 

Please talk about some precautions people should take for their skin when they’re in the sun.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair needs to be cautious about accidentally burning their skin when they come in contact with metal parts of a chair—such as foot rests, arm rests and brakes—when they’re outside because the sun can quickly heat the metal.

Taking certain medications can make it easier to get a sun burn or feel the effects of the heat.

Medications and heat are often not a good combination, please share some tips for keeping things cool:

Make sure you have a cooler or a cool place to store medications when you’re out in the sun.

It's important to stay hydrated in the hot weather. 

It's important to stay hydrated in the hot weather. 

What are some general tips for staying happy and healthy in the summer sun?

  • Take plenty of fluids to ensure good hydration
  • Limit caffeinated beverages
  • Wear sun screen
  • Try to exercise during the cooler times of the day
  • Dress for the weather—wear light colors and clothing that can reflect the sunlight and heat
  • Make sure your child’s safety seat and belt buckles are not too hot before you secure your child.
  • Playground equipment can often get very hot in the sun—check the equipment before your child uses it. A playground slide in the sun can be very hot!
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