Winter In A Wheelchair:
Before I was hurt, I was a licensed New York State guide and taught a course on backpacking at a local college. I'm well aware of the importance of preparing yourself for the environment you are going to be in. This is even more critical for a person confined to a wheelchair. Seemly simple considerations are compounded by our body's condition and vulnerability .
I want to remind you I am a C6 quadriplegic who is always in a power chair and have been for over 15 years. No person with a disability has the exact same situation, even if they share the same level of injury.
Chances are if you spend much time in the outdoors, you have heard the expression “cotton kills.” The cotton fibers once they become wet stays wet and the wetness allows the body to start cooling. The result is that you start shivering and if not stopped it can quickly develop hypothermia which can be life threatening. Avoid cotton when spending any amount of time outdoors. There are many alternatives to cotton such as moisture-wicking fabrics like polypropylene, polyester blends or even better wool. Even when totally wet wool will keep a person warm.
When dressing for outdoors in cold weather you must give special consideration to the body's major heat loss spots the head, feet and hands. Almost half the body heat is lost from the head so always wear a toque, knit hat or face mask. A neck warmer, which can be pulled up over your mouth and nose, is also a good idea. For hands use a quality pair of mittens, which are warmer than gloves, and a pair of overmitts. Heavy socks and boots with Overshoes will help keep your feet warm. On very cold days when hunting I wear arm and leg warmers which a friend knit for me but they can also be purchased. What is so nice about leg warmers is they are easy on and off because they only go up to the thigh. More information about these is available at Quad Mitts. The outer layer of clothing should block the wind from reaching your body. In the picture below not only do I have a windproof jacket on but also a pair of wind proof chaps. Staying indoors in the cold snowy weather is one of the hardest adjustments I have had to make.
Hydration is as important in the cold weather as it is in the warm. Many people do not realize the body uses moisture from the mouth to raise the temperature of the cold air they breathe. Water is also important to maintain core body functions temperature. Cold will set in much more quickly if the body gets dehydrated.
Protecting exposed skin is another concern. Sunburn is a very real possibility because of the snow's ability to reflect and intensify the rays of the sun sso be sure to wear sunscreen. Wind, even a slight breeze, can freeze the skin in a short period of time. Exposed skin can be covered with Vaseline or a quality commercial wind block to prevent it from freezing and remember to protect your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses.
Finally, make sure your Emergency Kit has all the suggested components including a Space Blanket.
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