Neurological disorders are diseases of the nervous system and can range from brain tumors to epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and stroke. People with neurological disorders can have varying degrees of difficulty regulating body temperature and navigating the summer heat can be a challenge. For most diagnoses, fatigue or low energy is a common problem which worsens in hot weather since this population is more likely to overheat.
In the summer, learning to navigate the weather can help someone with a neurological disorder maintain their normal quality of life. Tips for minimizing the effects of heat include:
- Stay hydrated – carry water with you at all times and eat plenty of fruit/veggies. Ice popsicles are helpful too!
- Avoid the height of the heat - Exercise in the morning or evening when the day is cooler. Avoid direct sunlight around 11-3 as it tends to be hottest at these times.
- Use Fans – Electric fans are a great tool for the home even if you have A/C.
- Wear light clothing – Light, pale colored clothing, hats, and open shoes, like sandals, can help with heat management. Tight clothing makes heat intolerance worse, so opt for loose-fitting clothes.
- Take cool showers – Consider multiple cool showers throughout the day, or a bottle with cool water to spray yourself with. Ice packs across the shoulders and feet in a bucket of cool water can help too.
- Try to avoid temperature changes – going from a hot parking lot to a cold air-conditioned building can actually burn energy/increase fatigue.
- Minimize sweat – pay attention to areas where sweat can build up (armpits, groin, etc.) and make sure to try to keep these areas clean and dry.
- Cooling garments – garments specifically designed to cool the body could be an option, but we recommend that you talk to your doctor before about what options are available to you.
If you aren’t sure where to start, a physical therapist can help you identify ways to manage the summer heat that are specific to your diagnosis. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health has a network of physical therapists, physicians, and neurologists dedicated to providing exceptional care and educating the community about neurological disorders.
Kristen Unger is the doctor of physical therapy at Cone Health Outpatient Rehab Center at Reidsville. She received her Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, and a Master of Science in clinical exercise physiology/biomedical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2010 and 2011, respectively. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University in 2015. Kristen recently founded the Rockingham County Parkinson’s Disease support group.