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Tips for Daily Living: Preparing for Summer with Parkinson’s Disease

Does summer have you thinking about taking a trip or enjoying the great outdoors? Follow these tips on Parkinson’s and travel, sun safety and heat exhaustion.

Does summer have you thinking about traveling somewhere new or enjoying the great outdoors? Follow these tips on Parkinson’s disease (PD) and travel, sun safety and heat exhaustion:

Travel Hacks

Vacations are a big part of living well. Many people choose to travel during summer, but with Parkinson’s there are some extra things to consider before hitting the road. These tips can help you stay safe while you travel:

  • Bring your Aware in Care hospitalization kit Parkinson's ID bracelet and card everywhere. Order your free Aware in Care kit at www.awareincare.org, by calling your local chapter or our lifesaving Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).
  • Travel with all medications in original bottles. Keep the original label with the name of the drug and your doctor’s name.
  • Bring a copy of your prescriptions (generic and non-generic names) and medication schedule. Include your physician’s name and contact information.
  • Pack enough medication to last your entire trip in your carry-on bag. Include snacks, water or juice to take with medications. Pack extras in case your trip is delayed.
  • Continue to take your medications as prescribed, even if changing time zones. Keep the same intervals between doses. Consider wearing two watches: current time and time at home.
  • If staying in a hotel, ask these questions before you arrive:
    • What does “accessible room” actually entail?
    • Can you have room that has a walk-in shower with grab bars?
    • What is the proximity to elevators?
  • Ask your neurologist to give you the name of a doctor in the area you are traveling. Take note of your nearest Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, chapter or support group in the area.
  • Rest the day before your trip AND the first full day you arrive.

Sun Safety

If you plan to soak up the sun this summer, remember to take care of your skin. Melanoma is an invasive form of skin cancer that has been found to develop more often in people with Parkinson’s. Here’s how you can prevent melanoma:

  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen daily before leaving your house, year-round. If you drive often, keep sunscreen in your car so you can apply it to your hands. When in direct sun, wear protective clothes and a hat.
  • Examine yourself from head to toe. Melanoma can occur in hidden spots that can be easily overlooked. Once a month, look for odd marks and black spots on your skin and nails. Ask a loved one to help you check the areas you can’t see.
  • Know your spots. Look for a skin growth, mole or beauty mark that changes in size, color or texture.
  • Protect yourself from sun exposure. Schedule an annual screening with a dermatologist. Specifically ask for a skin cancer screening. Be sure to point out any abnormal spots.
  • Look for “sun sensitivity” listed on medication warning labels, these warnings can increase your chances of sunburns.
  • Use sunscreen when around reflective surfaces. Water and sand reflect sun rays and increase sun exposure, increasing your odds of getting a sunburn.
  • If diagnosed with skin cancer, get treated right away. Early-stage melanoma has a 98 percent survival rate.

Keep Cool

As the temperature rises, everyone is at risk of overheating. Be smart about your outside time. How to beat the heat:

  • Stay Hydrated. Drink water even if you are not thirsty.
  • Try to drink more than the recommended 9 to 13 cups of water per day when you are in the heat.
  • Exercise Smart. If exercising outside, keep track of how much time you spend in the heat. Consider exercising outdoors in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler outside.
  • Know the Signs of heat stroke: flushed face, high body temperature, headache, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness and confusion. Once heatstroke is suspected, begin cooling immediately. Go to your nearest emergency room or urgent care for treatment.

Annie Wallis, MSW, LSW, is the Parkinson’s Foundation Ohio Chapter program manager where she leads support, education and community granting programs. As a licensed social worker, she is passionate about making sure that Ohioans with PD and their loved ones have all the support and tools they need to live well with Parkinson’s.