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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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How to Stay Healthy on the Road

From Cristina Sadowsky, M.D., physician at Kennedy Krieger and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, we got some health and safety travel tips that apply to people in wheelchairs (and others).

  1. Stay supplied
    -Get a 10 day prescription of your most effective antibiotics to take with you when traveling (or fill your prescriptions with a national pharmacy chain).
    -Some medications (such as Phenol, for neurolytic blocks) applicable to SCI, can not tolerate direct sunlight. (The doctor doing the block will tell you that, and you would not take it on a trip!).
    -Some medications are vasodilators that make blood vessels widen (such Nitroglycerin for Autonomic Dysreflexia and some bladder medications, like Flomax); so they can make you more light-headed when sitting in the sun.
    -Be sure to never leave medications in direct sunlight or heat.
    -Avoid excessive alcohol drinking because the dilation of alcohol produces more sweat, which will make you have to keep hydrated more. A combination of alcohol and medications (such as Backlifin) interact with alcohol.
  2. Keep hydrated
    What you sweat out, you have to replenish! The average adult needs two liters of liquid per day. This can be 2 ½ liters in the heat of the summer with more sweating. Drink both water and Gatorade, as it has electrolytes. Secondary conditions are a concern for people living with paralysis, so do not drink anything with a lot of sugar, such as soda, as it can be bad for your kidneys.

    Scott Chesney finds accessible parking in Italy

    Scott Chesney was sure to wear a hat while vacationing.

  3. Wear a hat and appropriate layering
    Individuals with spinal cord injuries have a hard enough time regulating their body temperatures. Wear a hat that is of a lighter color to deflect radiation, and that is made of breathable material as to not retain heat or humidity. The transition from heat to cold can cause shortness of breath or wheezing. People with a higher level of injury can have hyper reactivity of their pulmonary system.
  4. Take Vitamin C
    It is believed to be good for skin and enhance skin quality. It is also good for an individual with a neurogenic bladder. (Interference of nerve pathways associated with urinating). It can potentially reduce the risk of contracting a urinary tract infection. Some dermatologists may also tell you to buy a sunscreen with Vitamin C in it.
  5. Check if any part of the skin turns pink
    If so, cover immediately. Pay special attention to areas where you have little or no sensation. Be sure others are also keeping their eyes open for any unusual discoloration on your skin.
  6. Always use sunscreen
    -Use at least SPF 15. Make sure the sunscreen has UVA and UVB protection; as both reduce the risk of skin cancer/melanoma.
    -Keep in mind, lotions expire after 12 months, be sure to replace.
    -Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially when in the water or sweating a lot.
  7. Use repellent
    If in the woods or hunting, be sure to use repellent sprays to avoid ticks and Lyme disease.


Travel Center:
- Back to Traveling with Your Wheelchair
- 14 travel tips from fellow travelers



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    Access-Able Travel SourceHi, we are Bill and Carol Randall and we live in Colorado. We have always liked to travel and like many of you don't get to do it enough. Carol has MS and uses a wheelchair or scooter. This has given us some first hand experience with unpleasant surprises and access problems. That's why we started Access-Able Travel Source. We are an information service! We are not travel agents, just travelers. We think we have come up with a way to help fellow travelers.

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    The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

    The information provided in the Paralysis Resource Center was supported by Cooperative Agreement number 1U59DD000838-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the Reeve Foundation and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.