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SCI Health Issues
Wheelchairs, Static Electricity & Electric Shocks
One of the problems many wheelchair users have problems with is to be constantly plagued by electric shocks from static electricity. Below we will try to explain why this happens, and what actions can be taken to reduce the number and severity of electric shocks a wheelchair user encounters.
Causes of Static Electricity Buid-Up
One misconception of static electricity is that friction between to surfaces needs to occur for a charge to build up, this is not so. Static electricity occurs when to different insulating materials are touched together and then separated. When the two materials are touched, one surface will hold electrons better than the other, and that material will take electrons from the other material and become charged.
The fact that we now have two surfaces with different charges means we have a charge imbalance, this can be a positive or a negative charge imbalance, and in order for the balanced status to return, the charged surface needs to be neutralized to the surfaces around it. One such way of bring the balance of charge beck to normal, is to earth the material which has the higher charge in it, and this is where we usually get an electric shock.
Prevention of Static Build-Up
If you are having problems with static electricity, one of the ways to stop the charge imbalance building up to high is to regularly earth yourself and your wheelchair. This can be done by touching a metal part of your wheelchair against a radiator pipe, you'll be suprised at the sparks you can create. Of course this will only give temporary relief, as when you next push your chair, the charge imbalance will build up again.
It has been noticed that the following can result in a charge imbalance occuring, and if you have any of the following, it may give a better understanding of why you are being charged up.
Some of the following have been noted in helping to reduce the charge imbalance occuring. Also, one of the easiest ways to stop static build-up is to introduce humidity to you rooms. I recently noticed that not putting the exractor fan on in the kitchen when steaming vetetables, raised the humidity in the house, and thus reduced the charge imbalance in my wheelchair reducing the shocks I recieved. Simply adding an earthing strip to your wheelchair does not always work, but it's worth a try.
If you are still plagued with electric shocks after trying the above, all I can suggest is turning lights on and off with your knuckles first, as this is less painfull when a spark occurs. Or, you can hold a key and touch it against a metal light switch or radiator before you touch them. The spark will go accross the key, and not your fingers, thus eliminating the pain.