Most people welcome hot weather, but for many people with a brain injury the heat can cause problems and make it harder to manage the effects of their injury.
A brain injury can sometimes cause problems with temperature regulation making it harder for survivors to control their body temperature. They may feel too hot or too cold, or fluctuate between the two. Other symptoms, such as fatigue and cognitive problems may be exacerbated in hot weather.
With help from our social media followers, we’ve put together a list of top tips for coping with hot weather following a brain injury.
It’s particularly important to keep fluid levels up. When the weather is hot our bodies sweat more so it’s crucial to replenish lost water levels.
Don’t rely on your physical thirst to let you know when to have a drink as this is not a reliable indicator. Instead, make sure to take regular drinks throughout the day.
Take a water bottle with you when you go out. Many restaurants and cafes will be happy to refill your bottle for you.
Avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol as these can increase dehydration.
The sun is at its hottest between the hours of 11am and 3pm. If you can, avoid being out in direct sunlight during these hours.
Things like electric fans, ice packs, wet cloths and cool gel pillows can help keep you cool.
Having cool baths or showers and splashing yourself with cold water is also something to try.
I try to stay in the shade but if I have to be outdoors I wear a damp cloth around my neck.
- Irene Melville
A hot house can make it hard to sleep so take measures to keep the inside cooler.
Surprisingly, keeping windows shut during the hottest part of the day with the blinds/curtains drawn can reduce the temperature. You can open the windows for ventilation during the evening when the outside temperature drops.
Many brain injury survivors struggle with light sensitivity which may be exacerbated in bright sunlight. Many of our social media followers report suffering with headaches during the hot weather. Wearing dark sunglasses may help relieve the symptoms of light sensitivity.
I find the brightness can hurt my eyes and my migraines get more intense and frequent.
- Lynne Duckworth
The skin is particularly vulnerable during hot weather. Sunburn can be very uncomfortable but more worryingly it increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
When buying sunscreen look for one that as a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and preferably 5-star UVA protection.
Scars can be particularly vulnerable, particularly in the early stages of healing, so if you have exposed scars make sure to put a higher factor sunscreen on them. If you have a surgery scar on your head consider covering it with a sunhat.
I always wear a hat outside to protect my healing scar.
- Karen Hart
Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect your skin. Wear suitable clothing and spend time in the shade when the sun is at its hottest.
Clothing can make a real difference to how our bodies handle heat. Wear light colours and loose garments that can allow air to get in. Materials like cotton and linen are more breathable.
Constantly alternating between hot and cold temperatures, for example going from an air conditioned room to being out in the sunshine and back again. Doing this can confuse your body temperature and may increase fatigue.
Some medications can increase problems in hot weather, for example by making your skin more sensitive or causing temperature regulation issues. Check the possible side-effects in the information leaflet and speak to your doctor about the potential consequences of your medication.
You should also make sure that medications are stored at the recommended temperature. Be careful about having your medication in direct sunlight, for example on a windowsill.
Check on family, friends and neighbours who might be struggling in the heat. Elderly people and those with disabilities and pre-existing health conditions are particularly vulnerable. Also look out for pets as they can struggle in the heat too.
The information in this feature is not intended to replace medical advice. If you or a loved one becomes ill during the hot weather please seek guidance from a medical professional. The NHS 111 service will be able to advise you.
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