Winter with a Spinal Cord Injury

January 16, 2012

Winter time has most Americans facing the harsh reality of snow, sleet and freezing temperatures, which can be especially hard for people with a spinal cord injury. We asked our forum users to share their wintertime survival advice and these are their top-10 ten safety tips.

  1. Layer. Wear multiple layers of clothing under water-resistant outerwear. This includes a scarf around your neck, a winter hat, lined boots and two pairs of socks.
  2.  Gloves. Wheelchair users’ hands often become desensitized overtime. Keep your hands warm, dry and salt-free with waterproof gloves, and remember to pack an extra pair.
  3. Protect your skin. It’s important to be diligent about checking areas of exposed skin and knowing the signs of frost bite. Frostbitten skin is cold to the touch, may feel numb and appear grayish-yellow. If you think you have it, move to a warm area and seek medical attention.
  4. Stay Hydrated. The human body uses more water in winter than in the summer because it takes more energy to keep warm. Avoid soda, coffee and non-herbal tea because caffeine is dehydrating. Drink water.
  5. Try to do range-of-motion exercises daily. Colder temperatures cause muscles to tighten up, and stretching not only helps reduce spasms, but also gets blood flowing to keep lower limbs warm.
  6. Stay warm inside. If you use a portable electric heater, make sure to keep an eye on it and to keep your distance from it.
  7. Avoid snow. Both manual and power wheelchairs tend to get stuck in snow, so it’s important to stay in shoveled areas as much as possible, especially if you are alone.
  8. Invest in Snow Tires. If you can’t avoid the snow, get knobby wheelchair tires. Beach balloon tires are also great for getting though snow. You’ll probably have to change your tires when you get inside.
  9. Wrap your Tires. If you don’t want to bother with snow tires, you can wrap your regular tires with sturdy nylon or plastic wires that will help wheels grab as you go through snow. You may need to remove the wires indoors.
  10. You can never be too safe. Pay attention to the weather: never leave home without a cell phone and keep an emergency kit in your backpack that includes a blanket, water and cell phone charger.

To share your own tips, please visit the FacingDisability Spinal Cord Injury Forums.


2 responses to “Winter with a Spinal Cord Injury”

  1. Mike Ritter says:

    Layers are my way through winter, ESPECIALLY a scarf!

    Another great use for Zip Ties!

    Two recommendations to add:

    – use a radiant space heater, instead of a blower
    – check the air in your seat cushion often!

  2. Thompson Rhonda says:

    How can you keep a robo air cushion from the air getting cold. Air get cold faster then a solid. And when my mans cushion becomes cold he stays cold too. Is there a product to help?

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