New Horizons Un-Limited Inc.
Winter Safety Tips for People with Disabilities
December 31, 2013
If you live in the frigid north, like we do here in Wisconsin, then you surely have had your fair share of below freezing temps. It is all too common for people with disabilities to simply stay indoors during these times. This can lead to boredom, isolation and depression. Rather than avoid these frigid days, embrace them, prepare for them and meet them with vigor and enthusiasm. Here is a collection of tips and must know information that will help you safely traverse through the cold months of winter.
Tip 1: Do NOT wear cotton - Cotton does not have any insulating qualities. It does very little to hold your body heat. Worse yet, once wet, cotton stays wet, which can allow hyperthermia to set in quickly. So, you might consider retiring those cotton thermal underwear you've been sporting.
What type of clothing should I wear in the cold?
- Lots of layers. Layer several loose, lightweight clothing items. Trapped air between the layers will act as an insulator. Additionally, layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
- Moisture wicking fabric. Invest in a few items of clothing that are made of moisture wicking fabric. This fabric will pull moisture away from your body and dry quickly, leaving you less susceptible to hyperthermia. Such clothing items can be found in nearly any store that sells fitness clothing. Thermal leggings are an excellent investment and can be worn under your regular pants.
- A blanket for wheelchair users - If you use a wheelchair and have limited use of your legs, wrap a thick wool blanket around your lap and legs for extra warmth.
Tip 2: Keep your head, hands, and feet well protected - Body heat can easily escape from an uncovered head, and frostbite can set in to exposed hands and improperly insulated feet.
How can I protect my head, hands and feet?
- Wear a hat (not just earmuffs) and/or a snug hood - Just covering your ears with earmuffs will not keep the heat from escaping your head. Wear a hat with a dense weave or an insulating liner that covers your ears completely. Picture those fluffy, sherpa lined lumber jack hats. You get the idea!
- Wear lined gloves layered with mittens - Again, the idea is layers. Even lined gloves won't withstand the cold indefinitely. But that added layer will keep your hands well protected. Plus if you need the dexterity, you can easily remove your mittens and still have your hands protected from the cold.
- Wear insulated boots over wool socks - The key again is insulating material. Leather will not keep your feet warm. Invest in a pair of boots made of synthetic, manmade material with a lining of thinsulate or some other insulating material. A pair of thick wool socks will add even more warmth. Be sure to give your feet room to breathe in your boots. A tight boot will restrict blood flow, which is never good!
- Invest in "hand warmers" - Consider investing in air-activated heating packs such as HeatMax Hothands Warmers, which will keep your body warm when the temperature gets cold. They’re available in several styles designed for hands, feet and body and can be purchased online or via many big box stores.
Tip 3: Stay hydrated - Did you know that cold can set into a dehydrated body much more quickly? It is essential to drink plenty of water if you plan to be outside for an extended period of time in frigid tempuratures.
Tip 4: Assemble a Winter Survival Kit and stow it in your vehicle - Storms can roll in and overwhelm a stretch of highway in minutes, leaving you stranded. Keeping a kit handy with a few essentials can make your wait for help more comfortable.
What should be in your survival kit?
Portable charger for your cell phone
Source: Top 23 Winter Survival Tips for People Living with Paralysis, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
© Copyright 2013, New Horizons Un-Limited Inc.
[Updated December 31, 2013]
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