EMS Takes on The Hottest Year Ever
According to Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists, there is a 99 percent chance that 2016 will be the hottest year on record. Ever. Because heat related deaths and illness are preventable, the CDC and other organizations have worked to educate the public on how to protect themselves.
“Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable,” says the CDC, but proper education and outreach has been an ongoing challenge. The record heat will no doubt have an effect on the EMS industry.
This month three people succumbed to the heat in Pennsylvania. Philly.com said the victims were two men aged 77 and 61 and a woman, aged 71. All had chronic illnesses. CDC estimates put an average death toll of more than 650 people each year related to extreme heat. Even as estimates are announced, illnesses and deaths associated with the heat are generally conservative.
Dr. Kenneth Colaric, a doctor who specializes in Emergency Medicine at St. Mary’s Medical Center notes that thousands become sick from heat-related illnesses every year, but other medical conditions play a part in outcomes.
“Scientists have determined that extreme heat contributes to far more deaths than the official death certificates might suggest,” said Dr. Colaric, Examiner.net. “This is because the stress of a hot day can increase the chance of dying from a number of cardiovascular conditions or respiratory diseases. Since deaths from heart attacks, stroke or pneumonia are much more common than heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, it’s very likely the number of deaths actually caused by heat exposure is not truly reflected on death certificates.”
Managing workflow and organizing equipment is one tactic agencies are using to manage seasonal emergencies. Modular systems and cabinets mounted on ambulance walls between the medic and patient provides easy access for the medic. In any heat-related emergency, hydration is critical.
“Once heatstroke is suspected, cooling must begin immediately and must be continued during the patient’s resuscitation,” writes authors Robert S Helman, MD Director, Premier Care of Great Neck Urgent Care Center and Rania Habal, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, New York Medical College in Heatstroke Treatment & Management.
“I cannot understate the importance of water consumption,” adds Colaric. We lose about a half-gallon of body fluid during the day. That’s about 2 percent of your body weight. If you work out, you lose even more. With a 3 percent fluid loss, you begin having difficulty maintaining your body temperature. With a 4 percent fluid loss-your muscles stop working properly. If you reach 5 percent fluid loss that is life threatening,”
According to the CDC, in a 2-week period in 2012, excessive heat exposure resulted in 32 deaths in four states, four times the typical average for those states for the same 2-week period from 1999-2009. More than two thirds of the deaths (69 percent) occurred at home, and 91 percent of those homes lacked air conditioning. Most of those who died were unmarried or living alone, and 72 percent were male.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Differ. Associated illness should also be considered. Below are symptoms associated with Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke provided by Dr. Colaric
Heat exhaustion Symptoms:
· Heavy sweating
· Cold, moist skin, chills
· Dizziness or fainting
· Muscle cramps
· Fast, shallow breathing
· Nausea, vomiting or both
Heat Stroke Symptoms:
· Warm, dry skin with no sweating
· Strong and rapid pulse
· Confusion and/or unconsciousness
· High fever
· Throbbing headaches
· Nausea, vomiting or both
source: CDC, emedicine.Medscape.com, Dr. Kenneth Colaric via Examiner.net