Getting Winter-Ready in a Wheelchair
The approaching cooler months can be challenging if you use a wheelchair to get around, so you’d be forgiven for wanting to bunker down and hibernate for the coming months. Navigating your way through slippery, wet and windy conditions and regulating your body temperature can be tricky as a wheelchair user, so here are some easy ways to help make sure you stay warm, healthy and safe when the temperature drops.
Many wheelchair users experience thermoregulation issues, which means that the body’s temperature isn’t maintained easily. This can make wheelchair users more susceptible to the cold weather.
Whether you’re in a wheelchair or not, adding a few extra layers is a great way to keep the chills away. If you have a spinal cord injury, keeping warm can be particularly tricky and important, and layers can help with this.
Invest in thermal undergarments, a warm woollen jumper and thick winter coat and layer them all up to help protect you from the elements and retain body heat.
Hands, Feet and Head
Our head, hands and feet are the first areas to lose body heat and feel the cold. We lose about 10% of body heat through the head, which is why wearing a hat or beanie in winter is a popular and quick way to keep warm. Wearing gloves can help keep your hands warm and protected from the elements, while thick socks will help to keep your tootsies warm too.
An old-fashioned yet effective way of keeping warm; the trusty hot water bottle will keep you warm for hours, while also helping to sooth aches, pains, injuries and soreness.
Hand warmers or heat packs are another good option to keep hands and fingers warm in the colder months. These come in small pocket sized packets, making them easy to carry and store, and are readily available from most chemists and online.
Regular exercise is a great way to improve circulation and keep your body warm. Simple exercises such as arm pumps or small weights can really help, and you don’t need to have full mobility to experience the benefits of exercise – take a look at our recent blog: how to exercise as a wheelchair user.
Remember driveways, paths and other access points may be slippery and wet during these cooler months. If the weather is adverse, be mindful that it may take longer and be more difficult to get to where you’re going. Plan your journey in advance and find the easiest and safest route for your wheelchair before you set out.
Winter is the season for colds and flu. It’s imperative that you protect yourself against these by getting your flu vaccination every year.
Prepare Your Vehicle
How you ‘winterise’ your vehicle will depend on where you live in Australia. Those in more milder climates may need to do very little to prepare their wheelchair access vehicle, however, those who live in the Southern and much colder areas may need to take additional steps to stay safe and warm when out and about during winter.
If you’re a wheelchair user and you haven’t winterised your wheelchair access vehicle, here are our top tips:
- Ensure you have a half-tank of petrol in your wheelchair access vehicle for emergencies
- Always carry a breakdown kit with you – include a torch, batteries, water, blankets, spare phone charger, food and any medication you may need should you break down
- Always double check your route and public transport alerts before you travel
- Make sure you have the correct tyres for any terrain that’s out of the ordinary – such as snow or ice
- Check your electric or manual wheelchair ramps are in working order or get them serviced before you set out on your journey
- Drive with caution – icy roads can be deadly if you’re travelling too fast!
If you’re a wheelchair user and you don’t have a wheelchair access vehicle, it can be a life-changing investment, helping you stay safe and independent all year round. Find out more here. You may also be entitled to support from the NDIS.
Our tips should never be substituted for professional medical advice. If you’re concerned about your health and wellbeing this winter, consult your doctor or physiotherapist for specific advice in relation to your personal needs.
You can call our dedicated team on 1800 662 454, or contact us online for an obligation-free vehicle demonstration and consultation at your home. Let us help you become more mobile, and experience all that life has to offer!