The UK’s Devon Air Ambulance has been wrestling with not only the service’s busiest summer, but also providing the service during the country’s current heatwave health alert. This June, Devon Air Ambulance attended 193 incidents and treated 140 patients; an increase on both 2019 (158 incidents, 101 patients) and 2020 (167 incidents, 88 patients) figures.
Critical care teams are also required to wear level 3 personal protection equipment (PPE), designed to be fire retardant and anti-static. While the fabric is designed to regulate body temperature, crews must perform physically demanding tasks in both high atmospheric temperatures and the heat of the aircraft reaching a potential 40°C.
One Devon Air Ambulance Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care stated: “It is like we have jumped in the ocean fully clothed – we are often sodden in sweat. Even my debit card melted out of shape in my flight suit during a run of recent missions!”
Air conditioning and dehydration
Although the Devon Air Ambulance’s Airbus H145 is equipped with air conditioning, it is rarely used as patients often require anesthetizing and are at risk of becoming cold, a further risk to health and recovery.
PPE also carries a potential risk of dehydration. As the suits are designed to protect against moisture, they are therefore not breathable. Another Devon Air Ambulance Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care remarked: “As evaporation is one of the body’s ways of cooling us down, this can have an effect on our own temperature control. Not only does this mean that we get very hot, but we also get dehydrated quicker.
“So it is vital that the crew try to remain hydrated whenever we can. This can be challenging, especially when we are responding to incidents in quick succession as there is little space and weight available in the aircraft for bottled water.”
Refining first responders’ PPE remains a constant priority, including back in October 2020 when Cardo Crew launched its mesh communication technology.