Managing Heat Waves
Mana­ging Heat WavesFlynt | Dreamstime.com [Dream­sti­me RF]

Cli­ma­te and health are clo­se­ly inter­lin­ked. The effects of cli­ma­te chan­ge direct­ly influ­ence human well­being. The Ger­man nur­ses asso­cia­ti­on, the “Deut­scher Berufs­ver­band für Pfle­ge­be­ru­fe” (DBfK), is drawing atten­ti­on to this. Heat waves also pose pro­blems for health­ca­re and nur­sing faci­li­ties, as extre­me heat puts peop­le who are elder­ly or sick at par­ti­cu­lar risk. In 2003, around 70,000 peop­le died in the cour­se of the Euro­pe-wide heat wave as a result of the climate.

At the same time, the DBfK exp­lains, the health­ca­re sec­tor con­tri­bu­tes signi­fi­cant­ly to cli­ma­te chan­ge. For examp­le, its C02 emis­si­ons are hig­her than tho­se cau­sed by avia­ti­on. The DBfK has recent­ly publis­hed an infor­ma­ti­ve brochu­re, under the tit­le “Nur­sing and Dealing with Cli­ma­te Change”(Pflege im Umgang mit dem Kli­ma­wan­del), which inclu­des exten­si­ve infor­ma­ti­on on how to mana­ge extre­me heat. The­re are also tips on what can and should be done in a nur­sing capa­ci­ty during the heat. The brochu­re is avail­ab­le to down­load on the DBfK web­site.

Heat as a health risk

Extre­me heat par­ti­cu­lar­ly affects the fol­lowing areas:

  • Blood pres­su­re and flu­id balance
  • Heart and cir­cu­la­to­ry diseases
  • Lung dise­a­ses and allergies
  • Post­ope­ra­ti­ve wound healing

Incre­a­sed car­dio­vascu­lar decom­pen­sa­ti­on, kid­ney fail­u­re due to dehy­dra­ti­on, or incre­a­sed sus­cep­ti­bi­li­ty to stress are just three of many sce­n­a­ri­os that can ari­se from extre­me heat. Fur­ther­mo­re, mos­qui­tos or ticks can lead to an incre­a­se in the num­ber of con­ta­gious dise­a­ses, just as lung dise­a­se can be cau­sed by breat­hing in nitro­gen oxi­de from indus­tri­al are­as. Wound infec­tions also occur more fre­quent­ly in warm mon­ths than during cold sea­sons. Side effects of medi­ca­ti­on and medi­cal devices can also worsen as a result of the temperature.

Sym­ptoms for both a heart attack and a more harm­less heat­stro­ke inclu­de swea­ting fits, exhaus­ti­on, diz­zi­ness, fain­ting fits (initi­al­ly when get­ting up, or incre­a­singly the­re­af­ter), nau­sea, or vomi­t­ing. In order to pre­vent the­se, you should drink ple­nty of water, not put strain on your cir­cu­la­ti­on through alco­hol or smo­king, wear appro­pria­te clot­hing, and stay out of the sun to avoid over­hea­ting. Groups that are par­ti­cu­lar­ly vul­nerable to risks asso­cia­ted with loss of flu­id inclu­de elder­ly peop­le, peop­le in need of care, but also new­born babies and young children.

Preventative measures against heat in nursing

Many nur­sing homes have alrea­dy taken pre­cau­ti­ons against heat waves in the past, for examp­le in rela­ti­on to the arran­ge­ment of the resi­dent or patient’s room, pro­tec­ting app­li­an­ces from over­hea­ting, alte­ring the menu by offe­ring spe­ci­fic drinks, or sto­ring medi­ca­ti­on and medi­cal devices.

The­re are also fur­ther pre­cau­ti­ons that the rele­vant orga­ni­sa­ti­ons can take in order to help faci­li­ta­te work at high tem­pe­ra­tures. Here is a short excerpt from the list (Brochu­re, p. 12f):

  • Adhe­ring to occup­a­tio­nal safe­ty regu­la­ti­ons and ensu­ring employees have suf­fi­ci­ent breaks.
  • Pro­vi­ding free drinks for ever­yo­ne, light­weight work clothes and chan­ges of clothes. Well-ven­ti­la­ted chan­ging rooms and sho­wer facilities.
  • Coo­ling rooms with ven­ti­la­tors, modern air con­di­tio­ning, shading, and insu­la­ti­on of the top floors.
  • Clear code of prac­ti­ce regar­ding the struc­tu­ring of workloads to relie­ve staff. Trai­ning staff.

Fur­ther­mo­re, it would be desi­ra­ble for the orga­ni­sa­ti­on to have a con­sis­tent approach to cli­ma­te pro­tec­tion. Through saving resour­ces, saving ener­gy, sen­si­ble was­te manage­ment, and sus­tainab­le manage­ment, health­ca­re faci­li­ties can help to redu­ce green­house gas emissions.