It is expected that temperatures across Washington will easily reach triple digits this weekend. Both staff and residents must take necessary precautions to prevent complications related to excessive heat.
Residents with a history of dehydration, cardiovascular and/or pulmonary disease are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications. All staff should be aware and monitoring for signs, symptoms, and consequences of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat cramps.
- Warning Signals: Gradual weakness, nausea, anxiety, excess sweating, syncope (fainting).
- Appearance and Signs: Skin is pale, grayish, and clammy.
- Management: For syncope, place head down and administer cool, slightly salty fluids immediately.
Heat Stroke (Serious Emergency):
- Warning Signals: Headache, weakness, sudden or worsening confusion, and sudden loss of consciousness.
- Appearance and Signs: Hot, red, dry skin, little sweating, very high temperature, and hard, rapid pulse.
- Management: Immediately cool skin by wrapping or immersing in cold water or ice. Call 911 or paramedics.
- Warning Signals: Severe cramps and spasms in the arms, legs and/or abdomen.
- Appearance and Signs: Skin may be hot and dry, or cool and clammy, depending on the humidity. The muscles feel like hard knots.
- Management: Provide cool fluids and foods containing sodium chloride (table salt).
The following measures should be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses. Some recommended interventions for your facility may include the following:
- Alert staff to monitor residents for the signs and symptoms of heat illness (listed above). Notify the resident’s physician of such observations and obtain medical services as needed.
- Review resident medications and identify those that may cause residents to become more susceptible to harm from heat and sunlight.
- Assure that facility policies and procedures for heat emergency situations are current, complete, and staff are trained.
- Monitor temperatures in care areas and resident rooms.
- Monitor choice of resident’s clothing to ensure they are appropriate in extreme temperatures. Loose fitting, light colored cotton clothing is best to allow the skin to breathe.
- Help decrease temperatures by closing window blinds and turning off unneeded lights in the daytime.
- Assist residents to maintain adequate fluid intake. In addition to water, consider popsicles, jell-o, sherbet, and juices to keep residents hydrated.
When outside, encourage residents to sit in shaded areas and to use sunscreen.
Creating Safer Air Movement for Cooling with Consideration of COVID-19
During the warmer months of the year facilities need to provide cooling for building occupants when air conditioning units and central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are not available to provide a cool indoor environment. In this situation open windows and portable fans are often used to provide comfort for building occupants. DOH has created a document to provide guidance on safer ways to create air movement for cooling when air conditioning units and a central HVAC system are not available. Click here to access the document.