Wheelchair users are more prone to develop skin conditions, such as pressure sores. Here are a few ways they can take care of their skin this summer.
One of the most important aspects of skincare is to ensure that the skin is dry. This can be an exceptional challenge during the extreme South African summer heat. Siân Storey, nurse advisor for TENA South Africa, explains that the skin, which protects against infection, the elements and body heat, is very sensitive to overhydration.
“The outer skin layer is important in regulating water movement to ensure sufficient hydration for effective skin function. Preventing overhydration is important as ‘soggy’ skin is more likely to break down. Too much or too little moisture can quickly upset the balance,” she says.
Skin becomes soft and easily damaged when exposed to moisture, such as sweat or urine, for prolonged periods of time. Storey notes: “Wheelchair users, because of their lack of movement or sensation, are at a far higher risk of skin damage and need to be vigilant at all times.”
Dress for the heat
One of the best ways to stay cool is to wear the right clothing. Stick to loose-fitting clothes and avoid creases and folds as this increases the risk of skin damage. Wear trousers with a looser fit around the top of the thighs. Stick to natural fibres, which are more comfortable, breathable and more useful in maintaining body temperature.
“In general, wheelchair users are urinary continent. If they do suffer frequent urinary leakage, they need to consider using a product that will prevent this, such as an absorbent pad which will keep the skin dry,” Storey says.
Clean any urine and faecal matter off the skin and dry it completely. If clothing becomes wet due to sweat or other substances, change into dry clothes. Always keep a spare outfit close by. Avoid staying in the sun for too long, to avoid excessive sweating.
Products your skin loves
The right skin products can also assist in maintaining healthy, dry skin. The soap should be a non-aggressive product accompanied by a barrier cream, which should be rubbed in completely.
Storey says: “Thick occlusive skin protectant products that are used overgenerously, so that they sit on the surface of skin, can often cause more issues than they prevent.”
The correct soap is also necessary to prevent a pH imbalance. Normal skin pH levels are important to boost friendly bacteria that prevent harmful bacteria from infecting the skin. Products used on the skin shouldn’t upset the pH level of the skin.
Stoney adds: “Soap works by dissolving the dirt on the skin and can irritate it if it’s not rinsed off properly. TENA Non-rinse Wash Cream and Wet Wipes work by removing the dirt gently from the skin, without the need for rinsing.”
The wash cream has a low pH balance, which is less invasive. It gently removes urine and faecal matter. The product is suitable for everyday use on all skin types. Visit the TENA website at www.tena.co.za to learn more about these products.