Be Cool, Even When Everything’s Heating Up
We just hit 100 degrees and we’d better get used to it. Dealing with the reality of summer in Arizona is especially important to survivors of brain injury in several ways. The brain is responsible for regulating the body’s temperature, and a brain injury can interfere with this process. People may have difficulty communicating or taking appropriate precautions to protect themselves from the heat, which can increase their risk for heat-related illnesses.
One such danger is heatstroke. When the heart is stressed, it can cut off blood to the brain. The subsequent lack of oxygen and difficulty regulating body temperature can lead to cell death in the section that controls motor functions. That’s why marathon runners who overheat may collapse as their muscle control decreases.
Following are some common ways that heat can specifically affect people with brain injuries:
Increased fatigue: Heat can make you feel more sluggish, making it more difficult to carry out daily activities.
Increased confusion: You may experience more confusion or disorientation in hot weather, which can make it more difficult to communicate when you’re distressed.
Increased risk of seizures: Heat can trigger seizures, particularly if you have a history of seizures or epilepsy.
Increased risk of dehydration: You may have difficulty remembering to drink enough water, which can put you at increased risk for dehydration.
However, there are several strategies that you can use to stay cool and out of danger, or at least not as miserable.
Stay hydrated: Survivors may have difficulty remembering to drink enough water, so it can be helpful to set reminders or use a water bottle with markings to track fluid intake.
Dress for the weather: Loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton or linen can help keep the body cool. And, of course, wear a hat and sunglasses.
Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, 3:00-4:30pm, and limit activity from 10:00am-6:00pm When outside, try to stay in shaded areas and take frequent breaks in air-conditioned space.
Use fans or air conditioning: A self-explanatory must.
Cool down with water: A cool shower or bath can help lower body temperature and provide relief from the heat. Even a splash of water on the face and neck can be quite refreshing.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine: These can dehydrate the body and make it more difficult to regulate temperature.
Keep an eye on symptoms: Conditions include headache, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.
In-home fans and air conditioning aren’t the only tech items to get some relief. There are several portable cooling devices out there, including:
Portable fans: Battery-operated or rechargeable fans can be carried in a bag or purse and used to cool down when outdoors. Some even have misting features.
Cooling towels: These are made from materials that retain water and stay cool for several hours. They can be worn around the neck or draped over the head.
Cooling vests: Designed to be worn underneath clothing, they contain cooling packs that can be frozen or chilled before use.
Neck-cooling bands: These lightweight and portable bands can be filled with water and worn around the neck to cool down the body.
Portable air conditioning units: Small units are typically lightweight and easy to move around.
Summer in Arizona. Never has it been so important to be cool here.
ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA
The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.
What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.
The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:
- Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
- Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
- Hosts virtual and in-person support groups for survivors and families
- Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
- Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
- Manages statewide Help Line: 888-500-9165