Tip #24: Binding Safely in the SummertimePosted: July 15, 2012
I’ve seen countless posts about binding methods, tips, tricks, but I don’t come across as much information on binding safely. I know how easily health/safety can become secondary when you’re just trying to survive and feel comfortable in your own skin, but as we coach each other, reach out and support each other, I think it’s also important to talk about ways we can protect ourselves as much as possible. Many of these tips can be applied year round, but for now, I’m going to focus on binding in the summertime.
Ugh, for those of you that live in warmer regions, is there anything that reminds you that summer is upon us faster than stepping out to the heat with a binder on? I personally wear the Underworks Double Front Compression Shirt and this thing gets hot. But it can be 80, 90, 100+ degrees and it still feels important and necessary for me to wear my binder. To balance my mental health self care (i.e. wearing a binder) with my physical safety in the summer, here are some things I like to keep in mind -
Wear Properly Fitting Binding Materials
First, know the risks. Binding can cause can cause bruising and fracturing of the ribs, pulmonary problems, restricted breathing, back problems/back pain and low blood flow, and can potentially impact lung and rib development in younger transguys. Do not wear binders / binding materials that are too small, or restrict your movement or your breathing. Also, try to avoid using ace bandages whenever possible as they can cause significant injuries. If you feel you must wear them (as binders can be expensive/inaccessible), choose wider bandages, and again, make sure are not restrictive to your movement or breathing.
Take Breaks When Possible
–either from the heat, from binding, or both, to give your body a chance to regulate its temperature and keep cool. Removing binding materials can be dysphoria-inducing, and at certain times impossible (out with friends, running errands, etc.), so splash some cool water on the back of your neck, under your arms, behind your knees. Stand in front of a fan. Walk into a library or mall. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a break or to speak up and let others know you need to cool down for a bit. You don’t have to explain that you’re wearing a binder – if you’re hot, you’re hot – there’s no need to explain yourself or justify your needs. Take a care of yourself.
Try not to bind for more than 8-12 hours a day, no matter the temperature. Give your body a chance to rest and breathe, unrestricted, as rubbing of the binder and restriction of the skin can cause rashes and fungal infections. For me, I believe binding in the heat also causes acne flare ups. Give your binder a good rinse and let it dry after wearing it out all day.
Staying hydrated is always important, but especially during those hot summer months. Water helps our bodies stay regulated and balanced, impacting blood pressure, metabolism, skin health, bone health, energy, digestion, heart rate, and–well, you get the idea. Look out for these signs of dehydration:
- Dry mouth / swollen tongue
- Heart palpitations
- Sluggishness / fainting
- Inability to sweat
- Decreased urine output / dark colored urine
- Increased thirst
If you experience any of these symptoms, take a break from what you’re doing, and take in some water. Find a water fountain, stop by a gas station and grab a bottle of water, knock on a neighbor’s door. For those who don’t like the taste of water, keep some of those drink packets on hand – throw them in your car, backpack or man purse. Brita also makes refillable water bottles now, if you’re particular about purity of water.
How much water an individual needs is still up for debate, it seems. The agreed upon minimum seems to be 8 cups of water a day, but beyond this, each source says something different and the amount is dependent on an array of factors. Some recommendations state 2.2 liters for women, 3 for men, but I still don’t know what to do with these gendered recommendations because they don’t quite fit for me. Your amount of physical activity and temperature should also be considered. What’s important is to know your own body and pay attention to how you’re feeling. And remember– if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Heat related illnesses can be dangerous, even deadly, so it’s important to pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you’re going to spend significant time in the heat (especially when the heat index is 90F and above) and while binding (or even if not), heat related illness such as heat exhaustion and the more severe, heat stroke, are possible. Pay attention to the following for heat exhaustion:
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Pale skin
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
If you experience these symptoms and think you may be dealing with heat exhaustion, please don’t ignore it. Get out of the heat immediately and move to a cool place. You can also try the following: (a) Drink plenty of water (b) Take a cool shower or bath; (c) Apply ice towels or sit in front of a fan; (d) Remove tight, restrictive clothing – including your binding materials if possible.
Heat stroke is more dangerous than exhaustion and is considered a medical emergency. Signs of heat stroke include:
- Behavioral changes – confusion, disorientation, staggering
- Lack of sweating
- Throbbing headache
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Muscle weakness / muscle cramps
If you suspect someone has had a heat stroke, call 911 immediately, and try to keep the person cool and calm in the mean time. Apply ice packs to areas rich in blood vessels – armpits, groin, neck, back. Immerse the person in a tub of cool water. Fan air over the individual while wetting their skin. Remove unnecessary clothing – This is where it can be difficult, uncomfortable, but the binding materials may have to come off if it means saving your life.
How do you stay cool in the summer? What to do in those times of rolling black outs? How about lazy afternoons running around town with friends, or for those transguys who work in the heat? Share with us your ideas, stories, experiences in staying cool, safe, and comfortable.
- Transguys: Chest Binding 101
- Hudson’s Guide to Binding
- Staying Hydrated
- Heat Exhaustion
- Heat Stroke