Chill Out: Expert Tips for Staying Cool and Comfortable for Disabled People

graphic image of young man with a drink and a fan in a wheelchairStaying cool in hot weather if you are disabled

Summer heat can be uncomfortable and even dangerous for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for individuals with disabilities. Disabled people often have medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, such as multiple sclerosis or respiratory issues. Additionally, certain medications may increase sensitivity to sunlight and heat.

Why is keeping cool important – the science bit!

Therefore, it’s crucial to stay cool during hot weather. The human body is naturally designed to maintain a stable internal temperature of around 98.6°F (37°C).
However, exposure to high temperatures can cause the body’s internal temperature to rise above this range, leading to dehydration, exhaustion, and even heatstroke in extreme cases. For disabled people who already have compromised health conditions or limited mobility, these risks are further increased.
Staying cool is important not only for physical comfort but also for overall health and well-being. When the body overheats, it puts additional strain on the heart and other organs.
It can also lead to decreased cognitive function and mood swings. By taking steps to cool off during hot weather, people with disabilities can ensure their bodies are functioning optimally while avoiding any associated risks of overheating or dehydration.

The Importance of Staying Cool

Staying cool is essential for people with disabilities because it can affect everything from mobility to mental health. When you are too hot, your muscles may become weaker, which can make it difficult to move around. You may also feel more fatigued or irritable.
Additionally, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be serious conditions that require medical attention. By staying cool and hydrated, you can avoid these risks and continue to enjoy the summer months.

General Tips for Keeping Cool

Dress Appropriately

One of the easiest ways to stay cool is by dressing appropriately. This means wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. Dark colours absorb more heat than light colours, so it’s best to avoid them during hot weather.
Choose clothes that allow some airflow to your skin, which helps to evaporate sweat and cool you down. Also, consider wearing a hat or visor to protect your face and scalp from the sun.

Stay Hydrated

water bottle with tube on back of a wheelchair

The Hydrant Water Bottle

Another important tip for staying cool is drinking plenty of fluids. Dehydration can make you feel hotter, so it’s important to drink water or other fluids regularly throughout the day.
Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day (more if you are active or sweating), and carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. Avoid sugary drinks like soda or sports drinks because they can dehydrate you even more. Water bottles like the Hydrant, have a special handle or a drinking tube to make it easier. The tube can be clipped onto a collar or pocket, to always be in reach. You can also use a handsteady drinking aid if you have tremors or shakes.

Use Fans or Air Conditioning

If possible, use fans or air conditioning to keep your home or workspace cool. Fans help circulate air around your body and create a cooling effect on your skin, while air conditioning can lower the temperature in a room quickly and efficiently. If you don’t have access to air conditioning at home, try going to public places such as libraries, shopping arcades or movie cinemas where AC is available.
Be aware that using air conditioning units is very expensive at home! It is much cheaper to use fans.

Other tips for keeping your home cool:

  1. Keep Curtains and Windows Closed: During the hottest parts of the day, keep your curtains and windows closed. Use light-coloured blinds and curtains made of weighty fabric for the best heat-blocking potential.
  2. Improvise Air Conditioning: Hang a wet sheet in front of an open window to cool the warm air as it enters your home. If you’re using a fan, place a deep dish of ice in front of it to create a chilled breeze. Point a box fan out of an open window in the evenings to push hot air out.
  3. Manage Doors: Keep unused rooms closed during the day to focus your cooling efforts. Open your doors in the evening to facilitate air flow and prevent your home from feeling stuffy.
  4. Install Reflective Window Film: This is an effective tool for keeping your house cool in summer by keeping the sun’s rays at bay.
  5. Use Extractor Fans Cleverly: Use your extractor fans to rid your home of excess heat. Leave your internal doors open and let the fans run for a while.
  6. Switch to Bamboo Bedding: Bamboo doesn’t absorb heat like traditional mattresses, making it a cooler option for summer.
  7. Cover Leather Sofas: If you have leather sofas, cover them with a lightweight throw or sheet made of natural fibres to prevent sticking.
  8. Use a Dehumidifier: A dehumidifier can pull the moisture out of the air and let your skin breathe better, helping to keep you cool.

Specific Tips for Different Disabilities

Mobility Impairments: Moving Around Without Overheating

For people with mobility impairments, staying cool can be a bit more challenging. It is important to avoid direct sunlight and hot surfaces as much as possible, especially if you use a wheelchair or crutches.
If you can, plan your outdoor activities during cooler times of the day like early morning or late afternoon. Another great option is to use cooling vests or wraps.
These are specially designed garments that have cooling properties and can help regulate your body temperature. There are a variety of options on the market ranging from gel packs to technologies that activate with water.

Sensory Disabilities: Keeping Your Senses Cool

People with sensory disabilities, such as autism or ADHD, may find it difficult to cope with bright lights and loud noises during hot weather. Wearing sunglasses and hats can help reduce glare and sun exposure while also providing some shade. Make sure to choose lightweight materials that won’t trap heat.
Using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can block out loud noises that may cause stress during hot weather. This is especially important if you live in an area where there’s a lot of construction noise or traffic sounds, and windows may be open, where you usually rely on double glazing to exclude sounds.

Respiratory Disabilities: Breathe Easy With Clean Air

If you have respiratory disabilities like asthma or COPD, it’s essential to avoid outdoor activities during peak pollution hours when air quality is at its worst. Check local air quality reports before scheduling any outdoor activities so you don’t put yourself at risk of breathing difficulties. Keep indoor air clean with air filters or purifiers to reduce the amount of pollutants in the environment around you. HEPA filters used at home can help move air around as they also have in-built fans. 
Try not to use harsh cleaning products that could irritate your lungs either – opt for natural cleaners instead whenever possible. 


Additional Tips and Tricks

Freeze Water Bottles to Use as Ice Packs

If you’re someone who easily overheats or has trouble regulating your body temperature, you’ll know how important it is to have a reliable source of cooling relief. One great trick is to freeze water bottles and use them as ice packs.
Not only will they keep your body cool, but they’ll also provide hydration when they melt. Plus, since water bottles are often small and portable, you can take them with you on the go!
You don’t need any special equipment or expensive gadgets for this hack – all you need is a few empty plastic water bottles and a freezer. Simply fill the bottles with water (leaving some room for expansion), screw on the lids tightly, and pop them in the freezer overnight.
The next day, voila! You have homemade ice packs ready to use whenever you need them.
This tip is especially handy if you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors or in hot environments. Whether you’re at a summer festival, lounging by the pool, or working outside in the garden, having access to an icy-cold drink (and ice pack) can make all the difference.
If you take a water bottle out with you, pack a freezer block in a carrier bag with it. Even if you do not have a cool bag this will really help it stay cool.


Take Cool Showers or Baths Before Bed to Lower Body Temperature

Another way to stay cool if you’re disabled is by taking cool showers or baths before bed. This can help lower your core body temperature and make it easier for you to fall asleep – especially on hot summer nights when sleep can be elusive. 
Make sure the water isn’t too cold, as this could shock your system and actually raise your body temperature. Instead, aim for a comfortable coolness that will help you feel refreshed and relaxed.
If you’re someone who struggles with getting quality sleep due to your disability, this tip is especially important. Not only does it help lower your body temperature and make sleep more restful, but it can also help soothe sore muscles and joints (which is always a bonus!).

Final Thoughts

Whether you have a mobility impairment, sensory disability or respiratory condition, there are options available for keeping cool during hot weather. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather conditions outside and stay hydrated throughout the day.
If possible, use fans or air conditioning units inside your home to regulate the temperature. Plan outdoor activities during cooler times of day or consider indoor activities during peak temperatures.
Don’t let the summer heat get you down! With a little planning and preparation, anyone can stay cool regardless of disability status.
By following these tips and tricks outlined in this article you’re on your way towards protecting yourself from potentially dangerous conditions brought on by excessive heat exposure. So take care of yourself out there in the sun!