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Sweating in the Desert With a Spinal Cord Injury

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I live in Phoenix, AZ. They say it’s a dry heat, but for some reason, I keep sweating no matter what climate I’m in. The real reason is because of my spinal cord injury. Most people with spinal cord injuries sweat above their injuries, especially due to autonomic dysreflexia. Most people with these reactions are T6 and above. My injury levels are T6-T8 and I sweat below my injury. The doctors are unsure why I am sweating below my injury. In the past 18 years, they haven’t come up with a permanent solution to fix it. I have also asked other spinal cord injured people, and only a couple told me they had the same symptoms.

Sweating can be a nuisance and a blessing at the same time. My sweating can be a nuisance because at night, I sweat through my clothes and sheets. I wake up covered and smelling like sweat. Our sheets need to be changed often because they reek. I am also prone to bed sores and have had surgery on them in the past. When I have wounds, I sweat profusely from the pain. I guess this can be a good thing because my body is telling me I’m in pain. However, it’s a hassle because like the sheets, my pants have to be constantly changed. It’s uncomfortable as well.

My sweating isn’t always severe. It is only severe at night and when I have wounds. It can also become severe when my shoes are too tight as well. My sweating can also indicate my bladder or bowels need to be emptied. I have a neurogenic bladder and a reflexive bowel, so I cannot empty it like someone without an SCI or feel when I have to go. I usually sweat on my lower back, so it is a strong indicator that I have to use the restroom. This has helped me avoid accidents. I also have other indicators besides sweating, such as having a full feeling in my stomach.

Sadly, my sweating issue is inevitable for most situations. However, I have found some things that help prevent sweating when I’m sleeping. In the winter, I sleep with cotton pajama pants and two layers of top clothing. This allows me to stay warm on the upper half of my body, and sweat less because I’m not bundled up in blankets. If you’ve been to Phoenix the summer, you know how hot it is. We can have 120 degree days. This makes it especially hard in the summer. While there’s nothing to prevent sweating in the summer outside, there are some things I do at night. When my husband and I go to bed, I put the thermostat to 73 and keep the fan on. I sleep in lightweight pajamas and a light blanket. It has cut back on sweating and the sheets smelling from sweat.

I have been sweating since I was injured in 1999. To be honest, I have gotten used to it being part of my life. However, I wish that there were more options to help me stop sweating at night. It would save my sheets, clothing and sanity.

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Originally published: January 29, 2018
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