By Patty Kunze, "The Rollin RN"
I am sitting at my desk with record setting temperatures outside, and thinking about spinal cord injury and our body’s inability to regulate temperature. It’s just another ‘thang’ we are unable to perform. But why does that happen to spinal cord injured individuals? Why are we powerless to regulate our bodies in hot and/or cold? Since its summertime, I wanted to discuss the whys and hows to normalize during balmy outside temperatures and how to provide a comfortable environment while sitting in our chairs.
A normal, healthy human is able to maintain a constant body temperature of approximately 98.6ᵒ F despite the temperature of the environment. In a hot environment, the body sends a signal to the brain via the spinal cord to say the body is overheating; the brain then sends a signal back down the spinal cord and tells the body to cool itself by perspiration which evaporates and cools the skin. This is defined as a “normal” individual. This definition does not apply to spinal cord injured(SCI) individuals. The signal is halted at the level of injury. These definitions can easily explain why I can sit in a room and suffer from heat and my poor husband is wrapped tightly as a cocoon in his blanket. When I get hot, it will take me twice as long to cool down. Same occurs during a fever associated with illness. If a high paraplegic or quadriplegic is in an outside temperature over 90 F, especially when the humidity is high, the body temperature will begin to rise. The ability to sweat or to make goose bumps may be lost below the level of injury. It will take longer to cool down after a spike in temperature. A LOT longer!!!!