People with disabilities do report having poorer health, more limited access to health care and a higher likelihood of being smokers and inactive than their peers without a disability. This according to studies reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But do people with a
disability have an increased risk for becoming ill in winter because of having a disability?
The short answer is maybe. Simply because someone has a disability, does not mean that they will automatically be more at risk for getting ill. It is usually not in the contracting of a winter bug that people with disabilities are more at risk of, but rather the potential for complications to develop
once they are ill.
There are people with certain types of disabilities (e.g. neurological conditions) that have a higher risk of developing complications when they do contract a virus (e.g. developing pneumonia after getting the flu). People with disabilities also have an increased risk of developing secondary
(preventable) conditions, including bladder problems, depression, obesity and pressure sores and these conditions may become worse in winter due to a number of reasons, e.g.:
- Increased inactivity and lack of exercise due to cold weather
- Increased intake of hot drinks with caffeine and sugar
- Failure to adhere to good & regular hygiene routines due to reluctance to expose skin
- Skin burns due to close proximity to heat sources (especially to people without any sensation in certain parts of body)
- Drinking less than 2L of water per day
The best cure in this instance is prevention. An annual flu vaccine is highly recommended for people with higher risks of complications, according to the CDC. Continuing with some form of exercise, restricting (unhealthy) hot drinks, maintaining good hygiene and drinking enough water can go a long way in keeping people with all abilities healthy this winter!