How to Beat the Heat by TJ Griffin

How to Beat the Heat by TJ Griffin

Posted by Community Admin on Jun 28, 2016 11:59 am

It looks like it's that time of year: the unfortunate time when, if you’re quadriplegic like myself and you live where it is hot, you become a groundhog. When I broke my neck 25 years ago leaving me a C-5/C-6 quadriplegic, my doctors always told me to be very cautious of my body’s temperature. People living with spinal cord injuries have very little, if any, temperature control and are extremely susceptible to heatstroke. If it's too hot outside and you can’t cool yourself off, this can easily happen. 

Man, I wish I would've listened.  About two years after I was hurt, I decided I needed to get some sun, so I went outside to tan. Next thing I knew I was overheated to the point where I started seeing spots, then I saw nothing and I completely passed out. I woke up in the house and my brother was tilting my wheelchair back while my sister poured water on my face. I could not cool myself down, so my brother rolled me into the shower and I sat under freezing cold water for five minutes.  

1b72f470cfe158cc493a90d0151224e5-huge-imI knew after my injury I would not be able to handle the heat, but since experiencing a small heatstroke that day, it's really unbearable for me to be outside when it’s hot unless I take precautions.  So I've had to figure out some ways to actually enjoy summer in Texas, where I live so I can sit outside and not have to live inside in air-conditioning.  For example, if you are at a healthy weight, you can better handle the heat.  I noticed that when I lost weight last summer, it made a big difference in my tolerance of the heat. You should also always drink lots of water. When I say water, I mean water! Not Gatorade, beer or iced tea. Water is the best thing for hydration. I'm not sure if you're like me, but Gatorade causes issues with me trying to urinate and it still doesn't hydrate you as well as good old-fashioned H2O. You can also help yourself by not eating heavy foods if you're going to be in the heat. I found eating watermelon or a light salad when I'm outside makes a difference in being able to sit out longer. 

Clothing obviously helps control heat issues. Shorts are always a tough issue for people with spinal cord injuries, especially if you have to wear a leg bag. Right now I'm using a Urocare sport bag; it sits on top of my thigh so the shorts cover the bag. However, it doesn't hold very much so I am draining it constantly throughout the day. In my opinion, draining your leg bag is still better than sitting outside in 100° heat with jeans or long pants. Speaking of shorts, if you can wear dry fit shorts or a bathing suit that looks nice, you should try doing this.  

If you start getting overheated, you can stick a wet washcloth or even a bag of ice inside your thigh area.  It is one of the quickest ways to lower your body temperature. I know a couple people that will just sit on ice bags inside their shorts. They say this keeps them cool for hours. Depending on your situation, cooling vests also work well.  I use one if I'm sitting outside with close family and friends and don't care about how I look. The vest stays a little wet but I'm much cooler with it on; it lowers my body temperature by a good 25°. You can find all different kinds of cooling vests on-line, but make sure to get a vest with your correct measurements so that it is comfortable and works correctly. 

Another way that I survive summer is to always have a squirt bottle with water in my backpack. If I'm sitting outside, I like to spritz my face, behind the ears, on the top of my head, and inside the elbows -anywhere there is a pulse point because it cools you off quicker. You need to spray yourself every 10 minutes or as soon as you feel hot. The secret is to continue spraying so that you don’t get uncomfortable.  

These are just some of the things that I do to help me enjoy summertime with my friends and family whether we are barbecuing in the backyard or going to a game. It's never easy to spend a lot of time outside in the summer, but if you plan ahead and take some precautions, you can still enjoy some outdoor fun.

TJ Griffin
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Peer Mentor Program Coordinator

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Re: How to Beat the Heat by TJ Griffin

Posted by Michael Collins on Jun 30, 2016 6:21 pm

Good read. See also:

Re: How to Beat the Heat by TJ Griffin

Posted by nhoncon on Jul 9, 2016 12:57 pm

Very helpful information. Thanks for taking time to share for us


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