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Savoring Summer Safely: A Guide for Individuals with I/DD and Their Caregivers

Jun 8, 2023

Summer is a time for outdoor fun and making memories, but it’s important to remember that the season’s heat can pose unique challenges for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Both individuals with I/DD and their caregivers need to be aware of the potential risks associated with high temperatures so they know how to stay safe during this sunny season. In this article, we will share some essential tips that can help ensure summer is a positive season for everyone!

Top 10 Summer Safety Tips for Individuals with I/DD and Their Caregivers

1. Understand the Risks of Heat Exposure

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand the risks that summer heat can pose to individuals with I/DD. These may include dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and sunburn. Keep in mind that some medications or health conditions can increase an individual’s sensitivity to heat, making it even more critical to stay vigilant.

2. Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is key to staying healthy during the hot summer months. Encourage individuals with I/DD to sip water throughout the day, even if they don’t feel thirsty and especially when exercise activity is involved. Caregivers can set reminders to offer water or provide a safe, reusable water bottle to ensure hydration is always within reach. Individuals who are prone to choking should be carefully supervised each time they drink water in the residence or while out in the community.

3. Dress for the Weather

Choosing the right clothing can make a world of difference when it comes to staying comfortable and safe during the heat. Opt for lightweight, light-colored, and breathable fabrics. Hats and sunglasses can offer added protection from the sun.

4. Seek Shade and Stay Cool

On sweltering days, it’s best to avoid direct sunlight and seek shade whenever possible. Plan outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon. Take breaks indoors or in the shade to cool down. Having a barbecue? Tents and umbrellas can provide ideal opportunities to soak up some shade. Always be mindful of any food that sits out too long, such as potato salad. Staying indoors? Make sure fans and air conditioners are working properly before the hot weather hits so you’re prepared for the rising temperatures.

5. Apply Sunscreen

Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) is a must for protecting delicate skin from harmful UV rays. Re-apply it every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. Caregivers can assist with applying sunscreen and remind individuals with I/DD to re-apply as needed.

6. Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Caregivers and individuals with I/DD should be familiar with the signs of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, and excessive sweating. If any of these symptoms occur, move to a cooler area, rest, and drink water. If symptoms worsen or persist, seek medical attention immediately.

7. Create a Heat Emergency Plan

Having a heat emergency plan in place can help ensure the safety of individuals with I/DD during extreme heat events. This plan may include identifying air-conditioned public spaces to visit, stocking up on water and electrolyte-rich beverages, and creating a contact list for friends, family, or neighbors who can check in or offer assistance.

8. Establish a Buddy System

A buddy system can provide additional support during hot summer days. Encourage individuals with I/DD to pair up with a friend or caregiver when participating in outdoor activities. This way, they can keep an eye on each other and respond quickly if someone needs help.

9. Plan Nutritious Meals

Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet can help individuals with I/DD stay healthy during the summer months. Encourage the consumption of foods with high water content, such as watermelon and strawberries, and make sure they’re eaten safely.

Avoid heavy, fatty, or spicy foods that can increase the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Caregivers should also ensure that individuals with I/DD are eating regularly and getting enough calories to maintain their energy levels.

10. Prioritize Self-Care for Caregivers

Caregivers must remember to take care of themselves during the summer months. Stay hydrated, dress appropriately, and take breaks when needed. By prioritizing your own well-being, you’ll be better equipped to provide essential support and care for individuals with I/DD.

Embracing a Sun-Safe Summer for Individuals with I/DD and Caregivers Alike

As the summer sun welcomes us outdoors, always keep heat safety at the forefront of our minds. Just as we would diligently prepare for a winter season, being well-informed and ready for the summer paves the way for a positive and secure experience for individuals and caregivers alike.

By staying vigilant about minimizing risks, championing hydration, embracing shade, and regularly applying sunscreen, everyone can relish the season’s pleasures. Establishing emergency plans, fostering buddy systems, and monitoring weather forecasts further enhance our ability to create a sun-safe environment.

Finally, let’s remember that caregivers must also prioritize their well-being, as their unwavering support is invaluable to individuals with I/DD. Together, we can savor the warmth of summer while safeguarding the health and happiness of everyone.

For more information on staying safe and healthy during the summer months, visit https://opwdd.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2022/07/summer-safety-health-safety-alert_2022.pdf.

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