Manage Your Brain Injury Symptoms in the Heat
As the days become longer, the air becomes warmer, and the leaves begin to grow- we notice the emergence of the summer heat at last. After our long, cold, damp Canadian winter’s we can hardly wait to embrace the changing of seasons! With summer, however, comes sudden changes to our surroundings, our social lives, and our bodies. If you have sustained a brain injury, you may find that these changes have had an affect on your symptoms- and not always for the better. Are you experiencing more fatigue, more headaches, or more sensitivity? In this article, we will review some ways in which you can help manage your brain injury symptoms during the summer season, so you can continue to participate in the activities that are meaningful to you.
1) The Impact of Heat on Your Brain Injury Symptoms
Even without the presence of a brain injury, the brain is vulnerable to heat. Fatigue, light-headedness, nausea, and dizziness are all symptoms that one may experience after excessive heat exposure. Unlike the rest of the body, the brain cannot sweat so it depends on the blood flow from the rest of the body to cool down. Our ability to regulate bodily temperature is through the function of our pituitary gland in our brain. Studies are finding that individuals who have suffered from a brain injury may experience pituitary gland dysfunction, thus hindering the body’s ability to cool down. This makes individuals with brain injury even more susceptible to the impact of heat exposure and the shared symptoms already experienced. So how does one help prevent this?
- When outside, limit your sun/heat exposure by wearing a hat, sunscreen, and find shaded areas to rest
- Consider wearing loose and breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton
- Avoid strenuous physical activities in peak time for UV exposure. Try to schedule these activities before 11 am or after 4pm
- Stay well hydrated with water and avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine as these can lead to further dehydration
2) Managing Fatigue from Your Brain Injury
With longer days, our schedules may begin to fill up faster than before. You may be more inclined to saying “yes” to more activities than you can handle in a day therefore leading to a significant increase in physical, psychological, and mental fatigue. Here are a few ways you can manage your fatigue during the summer months:
- Recognize the early warning signs of fatigue and don’t be afraid to take a rest
- Pace yourself- don’t do one task right after another and rush your schedule. Allocate adequate time in between your tasks for rest
- Gradually and slowly build up tolerance for activities- coming from the winter months where your schedule may have been significantly quieter, make sure that you slowly build up your tolerance for activity during the beginning of season
- Tell others- Don’t be afraid to say “no” to excessive plans/activities. Be open about your difficulties and how fatigue impacts you, with those around you
- Sleep- Despite the long daylight hours, it is important to get enough sleep. Use sleep hygiene techniques and consider using “blackout curtains” so your bedroom stays dark and cool during the summer months.
3) Staying Hydrated in the Heat
It is easy to forget to drink enough water when our minds are occupied with summer activities. It is crucial that your water intake is sufficient all year round, but especially in the scorching heat waves of summer. Studies have shown that dehydration can affect your mood, memory, and pain tolerances, as well as reduce cognitive and motor skills. With this in mind, it is critical that brain injury survivors avoid dehydration as the temperatures continue to rise.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE DRINKING ENOUGH:
Check your thirst: If you are thirsty or have a dry mouth, it is likely that you are not drinking enough. The first sign of thirst, is an indication that you are already somewhat dehydrated
TIPS FOR DRINKING MORE WATER:
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Drink a glass of water when you wake up each morning or before you go to bed
- Keep water bottles in rooms of high traffic in your home- maybe the bedroom, living room, dining room etc.
- Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day
- Drink water when you are hungry and take sips of water before and during your meals
- Add fruits to your water to add flavour such as lemon, lime, berries, and cucumbers. You can also add these to carbonated water to simulate the sensation of soda!
- Drink water before, during and after physical exercise.
Keeping these three factors in mind and implementing them into your routine may help you better manage your symptoms this summer. You deserve to enjoy the season and all it has to offer! If you or someone you know is struggling to manage their TBI symptoms, please reach out to the team at Complex Injury Rehab for more information.
(BSX Technologies. (2016, August 29). 4 Ways Dehydration Affects Your Brain. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://medium.com/bsxtechnologies/4-ways-dehydration-affects-your-brain-e4042a6cb6b1)
(Sav, A., Rotondo, F., Syro, L. V., Serna, C. A., & Kovacs, K. (2019). Pituitary pathology in traumatic brain injury: a review. Pituitary, 22(3), 201–211. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11102-019-00958-8)