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Everyday EMS
by Greg Friese

Warm Equipment for a Warm Patient

Cold weather operations are well underway in the northern tier of the United States. Being cold is a common patient complaint. When assessing and treating patients in a cold environment, do these simple things to help prevent heat loss and enhance heat retention.

1. Cover the patient with an insulating layer, but remember that conductive heat loss into the bathroom linoleum, concrete garage floor, or road pavement is a fast method for heat loss. Insulate your patient from the ground.

2. Minimize time that backboard sits in the cold before the patient is placed on it. If it is 10ºF the backboard will quickly be 10ºF. A backboard does not rewarm quickly when a patient is loaded on to it. If you don't believe me, just ask the patient or lie on a cold backboard for 30 minutes.

3. Warm or cold, always cover the backboard with a blanket to provide insulation and cushioning for the patient.

4. Turn on the heat in the patient care compartment at the start of the call so it is warm when the patient is actually loaded.

5. For extended extrication package the portable oxygen tank in the insulation with the patient. Run the oxygen tubing through the insulating layers near the patient's body so warm oxygen is delivered to the patient. Leaving the oxygen tank and tubing exposed will deliver cool or cold oxygen to the patient.

Adjust the heat in the patient care comfort to keep the patient warm and comfortable. Add additional insulations to the patient as requested. If you frequently transport patients that have a cold challenge, mild hypothermia, or severe hypothermia look at products designed to enhance patient heat retention and minimize heat loss like the Turley Backboard Pad or the RG Medical Diagnostics Hypothermia Warming System.

About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at greg.friese@ems1.com.
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