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AYL Travel Tips – Staying Cool In Wheelchair

Nov 06, 2019

* This post is kindly sponsored by the companies listed at the end of this post, but all opinions are my own. *

I have always struggled to regulate my temperature, which means I am very sensitive to heat and can go from overheating to freezing in a matter of minutes. My symptoms are not always easy to control and can fluctuate quickly, but once you add a wheelchair with a black seat into the mix it suddenly becomes a lot harder to stay cool! So here are my top tips for surviving in the sun:

1 - Cooling Mats:

As mentioned above, the seat on my chair is black and we all know that black retains heat. Because of this, I will often cover my seat with something soft and white such as a pillowcase or towel when it’s hot however, I recently discovered that doggy cooling mats work a lot better! These inexpensive and easy to use mats are a great way to stay cool, especially if you pop it in the refrigerator for a few hours beforehand! I also found it easier to sleep in the summer once I popped a cooling mat under my pillowcase and/or fitted sheet. Although I recommend buying two mats and alternating between them to ensure you always have a perfectly chilled mat ready to use!

2 - Cooling Towels:

Cooling towels are another great way to stay cool, whether that’s in the sun or whilst throwing a temperature in the hospital! They are super absorbent, meaning they stay cool for long periods of time, don’t make your clothes wet and can be wrapped around most areas of the body, although I typically place the towel on my forehead, neck or wrists. You can usually find the towels in various sizes, but I prefer the little ones as they are the most convenient to travel with!

3 - Wearable Ice Packs:

There are lots of items available online with inserts that hold either ice or heating packs, making it a worthy investment as they can be used all year round! I personally find the bandanas extremely helpful in the summer, however the packs need replacing on a regular basis which can be tricky if you plan on being outside for a while!

4 - Portable Fans:

You will always find a portable fan in my bag on a hot day; although it‘s almost impossible to navigate your wheelchair whilst holding a fan, and getting your carer to hold it in front of your face is not exactly practical! So to make life easier, I purchased a portable fan designed to clip onto a child’s pushchair and simply attached it to the handlebars on my Firefly Wheelchair Attachment! It was relatively cheap and charges quickly via USB, which is helpful when you are on the go as you can use a portable power pack to recharge it. You can also buy battery-operated fans and/or ones that spray water, although I remember driving my parents mad as a child because my sister and I used them to spray people. Oh to be young again!

5 - Sunshades:

You can buy sunshades and umbrellas that attach to your wheelchair or mobility scooter, again just like the ones you clip on a children’s pushchair only bigger. However they are pretty cumbersome, so I personally suggest sticking to sun cream and a hat whilst you are on the go and using the umbrella for shade when you stop. That being said, I know lots of parents who have found the sunshades designed for pushchairs to be more than suitable for their child’s wheelchair/buggy, so it’s always worth looking at things that aren’t specifically designed for wheelchair users because the price is usually a lot lower!

6 - Suncream:

Now this point might seem pretty self-explanatory, but it is SO important to protect your skin from the sun. Especially for those of us with sensitive skin and/or disabilities that make it difficult to detect if we are burning in the sun! I sometimes even go as far as setting a reminder on my phone so I don’t forget to reapply my cream if I am planning on being outside for a long period of time.

7 - Clothing:

Try to wear loose, breathable and light coloured clothing, then pop an extra layer in your bag if you are anything like me and struggle to stay warm once you enter an air-conditioned building. I understand why buildings crank up their air conditioning when the outside temperature rises, but it really can make life a lot harder for those of us who struggle to go from one extreme to the other! I also quickly learnt that chafing becomes a big issue once you are sat in a wheelchair on a hot day, so I also carry some talcum powder!

8 - Medication:

Keep your medication cool! Check the storage instructions on your medications to see if you need to store them to a cooler place, but if you are unsure you can always speak to your GP/Pharmacist for more information! I have learnt from experience that there is nothing worse than needing a medication that went off in the heat, although I have only experienced this with liquids and oral solutions. So for anyone planning an all-day activity in the summer, try popping any temperature sensitive medications in a little cool bag! Although you may need a doctor's note if you need to take ice packs/cool bags on board a plane, or if you are planning to visit any high-security attractions such as the Empire State Building.

9 - Hydration:

As with everyone, it is important to make sure that you stay hydrated! I typically drink quite a lot of water to ensure I can comfortably use my catheters on a regular basis, but I always up my fluid intake when in a warmer environment. It is also sensible to avoid caffeine or alcohol, as they can make you even more thirsty. Although I know these pointers are easier said than done if you are busy, so investing in a cup holder that clips onto the side of your chair, or a BundleBean Caddy (pictured below) are great ways to ensure you can easily access your drink

10 - Planning Your Day:

If possible, try to alter the intensity/pace of your activity or changing your time table. I typically try to avoid going outside when the temperature is at its highest, which was typically between the hours of 11 and 3. Not only is this a sensible idea for anyone visiting somewhere warm, but it also makes it easier for people like myself to safely move around without exacerbating some of our symptoms. For example, I really struggle with sudden changes in temperature, so going out later in the day when it's cooler makes it easier to go from the warm outdoors into a chilly air-conditioned building! Obviously it isn’t always possible to fit your plans around the sun, but following some of these top tips should make it easier for you to stay comfortable and cool despite the heat.

Thank you to the following companies for sponsoring this collection of blog posts! I will be sharing more information on each of the sponsors at the end of the series, but in the meantime you can click on the links below to learn more about their products and services: