The long, hot days of summer are here, and with it comes the need to keep your residents safe and prepared to manage the heat. Here are some easy tips you can implement in your community:
- Be alert for any changes in clients/residents-physical, mental or emotional-that may indicate a heat-related illness.
- Consider establishing a hydration station in the facility, where water and other fluids are always available to clients/residents and staff.
- Never leave infants, children or the frail elderly unattended in a parked car.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
- Dress in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Use a hat and sunscreen as needed.
- Drink fruit juice or a sports beverage to replace salts and minerals lost during heavy sweating. (If a client/resident is on a low-sodium diet, check with his/her physician first.)
- During the hottest parts of the day, keep physical activities to a minimum and stay indoors in air-conditioning and out of the sun.
- Use air conditioning and fans as needed.
- Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate when appropriate.
- Avoid hot foods and heavy meals-they add heat to the body. Eat frozen treats.
Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
In addition to the preventative tips above, it is important to monitor for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. (Adapted from www.mayoclinic.com)
Heat exhaustion is one of the heat-related syndromes, which range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion often begin suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration, and inadequate fluid or salt intake. Signs and symptoms resemble those of shock and may include:
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid, weak heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Cool, moist, pale skin
- Low-grade fever
- Heat cramps
- Dark-colored urine
Heat stroke-which occurs when the body can’t control its temperature-may result in disability or death if emergency treatment is not given. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses a large amount of water and salt contained in sweat. Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but may include:
Elevated body temperature – generally greater than 104 F (40 C)
Changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma
- Skin may be hot and dry – although if heatstroke is caused by exertion, the skin may be moist
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Elevated or lowered blood pressure
- Cessation of sweating
- Irritability, confusion or unconsciousness
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults
If you see any of these signs for heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency and should follow the following steps recommended by the Mayo Clinic. Have someone call 911 while you begin cooling the victim
- Get the victim to a shady area
- Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly
- Loosen or remove the person’s clothing
- Cool the victim rapidly with a cool bath or shower, or by sponging with cool water
- If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions
- Do not give the victim alcohol to drink
- Again, get medical assistance as soon as possible