HNPP · Physical Health

Washing and showering with HNPP

Shower wash HNPP hereditary neuropathy

Not everyone faces this problem thankfully, but for those who do, showering and generally washing can be an absolute pain with HNPP. The energy needed to stay clean is surprisingly high on the list of exhaustive tasks. From lathering, to attempting to be dexterous and flexible washing your back, it quickly becomes a tedious endeavour.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a tiny bit, but we all know that staying clean and presentable costs us much more in pain and fatigue than our healthy counterparts. I say this because the gaps between washing appear to have increased since being diagnosed with HNPP. In some cases, showers can exacerbate pain, exhaustion or vertigo and on some days, they’re just not going to happen.

Here are some hacks some may use to make showering (or bathing) with chronic illness easier. If you struggled to shower today, that’s okay. You’re not alone.

Some tips before undertaking this task:

  • Avoid taking a full shower on days when you have other commitments. Even with a chair, a shower requires considerable recovery time, so try not to overlap shower days with errands, doctor appointments or other energy-draining activities.
  • Make sure you have plenty of time to yourself – that way you do not need to rush.
  • Think about the temperature of the water. Some people feel hot water can help ease their muscles while others have issues with hypersensitivity. Cold water can help with dizziness but it could have reverse effects.
  • If needs be, spread out your washing routine, so washing your hair one day, your body on another.
  • Dry body wash could help you easily freshen up on the days where you can’t have a full shower. It’s a foam that is antibacterial and all you do is rub it in wherever required. Instead of masking odours, it treats the cause. . It’s also perfect for hospital stays. In the same vein, dry shampoo can help in between washes.

What to think about while washing:

  • Preparation is key – be sure to have all necessary items within reach, as you’ll have more energy and wits to find them before your shower than afterwards.
  • Products – using a 2-in-1 shampoo with built-in conditioners saves you a step in hair care and limits the amount of stretching and holding your arms over your head. Some of the brands who carry these combination products are Suave, Pantene, and Prell. Your own personal preference will tell you which to choose.
  • Try avoid using bars of soap – they are often drying, which causes skin issues for some. In addition, that wet bar of soap can easily slip from your grasp during shower time, causing you to have to bend and reach for it on the tub/shower floor. This can cause muscle strain and even lead to falling in the shower. Liquid soap may be easier to use.
  • Pump bottles – Squeeze bottles and tubes can be a problem. Pump bottles could be easier on the joints.
  • Towels – fluffy absorbing towels are worth the investment, even on a fixed budget. When used to wrap your hair turban-style, the thicker the towel, the shorter time you need to raise your arms to towel-dry your hair yourself.
  • Shower stools –  a waterproof shower stool or chair to go inside the shower is an essential item if you are unable to stand long enough to have a shower. The stool or chair will provide support, stability, and safety, allowing you to enjoy the shower as best you can. Shower chairs can be large or small, and can be bought sturdy enough to hold up to at least 450 pounds (around 200 kg). In the UK, you can hire shower stools from the Red Cross, otherwise they can be purchased through those health product catalogues. In the US, mobility aids can be bought from online health stores such as Dr Leonards.
  • Grip bars – Securely installed grip bars are a must for getting safely in and out of the bathtub. Read more: Gadgets to help cope with HNPP
  • Handheld showers – dual shower heads can allow you to stand under the shower spray for all-over rinsing, train the spray on a particular set of muscles that ache, or you can hold the spray while seated and direct it where you need it. This may mean you are likely to need assistance installing your new shower apparatus. It is simple to do, but requires the ability to stand and hold your arms up for an extended time.
  • Suction cup bin – another good preparation is to install one or more suction-cup baskets to the wall of your shower which you will be facing. Be sure that the bin you choose has holes in the bottom so water can drain out. IKEA sells them for £5 ($6.50 USD). Once you’re settled on your shower chair, there is a suction-cup plastic bin facing you at seated eye level which holds all your shower items, and you do not have to bend or reach or twist your back to reach for items when you need them.
  • Bath brush – a long-handled bath brush, preferably with a wide handle as well for easy grip, will help in washing those feet that seem, oh, so far away.
  • Entering and exiting your tub – if you have a walk-in shower, so much the better. However, for those with tub showers, caution is needed in entering/exiting the
    tub. For many, the most dangerous moment is getting in or out of the shower, and for most, getting out after expending a lot of energy is a tenuous process. If you use a cane for strength or stability, make use of it when climbing in or out of the tub. Regardless of your shower configuration, be sure that you have a non-slip absorbent bathmat outside your tub, and non-slip surfaces on your tub floor, whether adhesive or built-in.
  • Hair dryers – hair dryer stands are great to avoid holding the device for too long and causing fatigue.
  • Terry cloth bathrobes – it absorbs the water so you don’t have to towel dry and while you’re waiting to dry you get to rest from taking a shower.

The biggest ‘hack’ is to remind yourself that you do have a health condition, so if you don’t have the energy to shower one day, it’s completely okay.

Read: When small tasks become daunting with HNPP

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