Temperature control or Thermoregulation is a challenge for people with cervical and high thoracic spinal cord injuries.
When it is hot, the body normally sends a signal to the brain via the spinal cord saying it is overheating, which then tells the body to cool down by sweating.
In a cold environment, the signal sent to the brain makes the blood vessels constrict, to prevent hypothermia and signals us to get warmer.
When you do not have sensation due to your spinal cord injury , your body may not send these signals properly, causing the body to experience hyperthermia (hot) or hypothermia (cold).
Severity of Injury
Generally, the more severe a spinal cord injury is, the greater the risk of impaired thermoregulation.
Individuals with less significant spinal cord injuries may have some thermoregulation below their level of injury due to the spared nerve pathways in the spinal cord.
Management of Thermoregulation
What to Do When Body Temperature is High
When your temperature rises, you may experience flushed skin, headaches, dizziness, or weakness.
Effective ways to cool the body down include:
- drinking water throughout the day
- carrying a spray bottle and wet cloth/towel
- wearing lighter clothing
- staying out of direct sunlight and in the shade if possible
- moving to a cooler environment
- sitting in front of a fan
What to Do When Body Temperature is Low
When your body temperature is low, you may experience shivering, slow breathing, pale skin colour, slurred speech, and a weak pulse.
To warm the body up, try:
- wearing more layers
- drinking a warm beverage
- using an electric blanket to warm up quickly (but be time-conscious and lower the temperature after a while to avoid overheating)
- moving to a warmer location