4 Tools to Help SMA Individuals Through the Winter

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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The winter can be a challenging time of the year for SMA individuals. Not only do cooler temperatures make it difficult for any wheelchair-user to move their hands and drive, but it’s also important to take extra measures to prevent colds. To help make this season more manageable, here are four tools that can help people with SMA stay active and healthy during the winter season.

1. Wheelchair Ponchos
There are several types of specialized ponchos on the market which are specifically designed for wheelchair-users, both men and women. This model from the company Silvert’s provides both flexibility and comfort, and is great for staying warm during the winter. A wheelchair poncho is like a Snuggie in that it covers the whole body, but it’s also designed so that it weighs little and puts minimal pressure on the user. Especially for SMA individuals who have trouble wearing coats and gloves because they limit their mobility, wheelchair ponchos are a great alternative.

2. The Vest Airway Clearance System
The Vest Airway Clearance System is a great resource for combating respiratory issues, and it’s especially useful during cold and flu season. The vest part of this device is wrapped around the user’s chest and connected via an extension tube to a box-like machine. Once the machine is turned on, air is pumped through the tubes automatically. This causes the vest to vibrate and helps move retained secretions in the user’s body, making it much easier for them to cough up excess phlegm. It’s generally recommended that SMA individuals use the vest at least once a day, but it’s best to talk with a pulmonologist to determine the best chest PT options for you or your child.

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3. The Cough Assist
The cough assist is a direct companion to the vest. Whereas the vest is designed to move secretions in the body, the cough assist helps a person cough up phlegm more effectively. The user wears a face mask, which like the vest is attached to a machine via a specialized tube. Once the machine is turned on, it gradually applies positive air pressure to the airway, and then rapidly shifts to negative air pressure. This kind of expiratory flow produces deep, natural coughs which make it much easier for an SMA individual to clear their system. While it’s a great tool to use year-round, it’s most useful during the winter when SMA individuals are more susceptible to catch colds and other contagious illnesses.

4. External Catheters
Going to the bathroom during the wintertime can be difficult for people with SMA. When shorts aren’t an option and you have to wear either khakis or sweatpants, consider wearing an external catheter so that you don’t have to transfer out of your chair and undress every time you need to go. These can be ordered online and can be put on by either a parent or caregiver. Catheters make it easier for SMA individuals to stay active during the day without having to constantly worry about bathroom accessibility.

These are just a few tools to help make the wintertime a little more manageable for people with SMA. Sound off in the comments section if you’d like to share more tips or know of other resources.

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SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.