Operation Fan/Heat Relief, sponsored by a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, is available to seniors 60 and over and for disabled individuals.
The program supplies fans to clients that have a home situation where a threat to the person’s health and well-being exists.
Individuals must be a resident of Yadkin County and be served by Duke Energy.
“The fans will be available through contacting our YVEDDI office and the local senior centers,” Brenda Holbrook, Elderly Services Director of YVEDDI said. “Qualified residents may call the YVEDDI District Office at 336-367-3531, the Yadkin Valley Senior Center, 336-526-1087, the Yadkin County Senior Center at 336-679-3596 or the East Bend Senior Center at 336-699-5100.”
Factors often overlooked with heat-related illnesses and death in the elderly include a lack of social support and the environment in which they live.
Researchers say that the majority of heat-related deaths occur in urban areas where stagnant air and poor ventilation are common. Other factors tend to be a lack of air-condidioning due to financial situations related to living on a limited income.
One other factor is that many elderly individuals live alone and, because of age, health or financials, have very little social contact which prevents access to a cooler environment during time of extreme high heat.
Options available for escaping the days when the area is experiencing a heat wave include visiting the library, the lobby area of the local hospital, visiting a shopping mall/department store or restaurant, and visiting a friend whose home is air-conditioned.
The increased use of air conditioners has been postulated to be a significant factor in the decrease in heat-related deaths in the United States.
Meals-on-Wheels personnel, postal service workers, neighbors, and family members are also important to encourage vulnerable older individuals to take advantage of air-conditioned environments during heat waves.
According to the N. C. Department of Health and Human Services, data from N.C. Detect, a statewide surveillance network, indicates that from June 11 to July 17, 2010, more than 490 people sought medical treatment in emergency departments around the state for heat-related illnesses.
Health problems can range from cramps and rashes to heat exhaustion and, more deadly, heat stroke.
“A minor heat-related illnesses can be heat cramps which are usually brief, intermittent, and often severe muscular cramps in muscles that are fatigued, usually in individuals who have produced copious amounts of sweat with hypotonic fluid replacement during exertion. The cramps are often associated with exertion in a hot environment but, with increased age, may occur in individuals in more temperate climates. Researchers say that heat cramps appear to be related to salt deficiency and often occur in the most-worked muscles after a period of exertion.
As a general rule for all heat-related illness, the individual should be removed from the hot environment, and exertion should be avoided. Treatment of heat cramps consists of oral fluid and salt replacement with a 0.1 to 0.2 percent water/salt solution. Severe cases require intravenous saline solutions. Heat cramps usually disappear rapidly after treatment begins, and there are no significant lasting effects.”
The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services reports “elderly people (65 years and older), infants and children, overweight people and those with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat stress and need to be monitored regularly during hot weather. Worker groups most at risk are those employed in construction, agriculture, and certain manufacturing sectors.”
The NCDHHS recommends that everyone is urged to pay attention to the following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce heat-related illness:
• Know the signs of heat-related illness. Initial symptoms include excessive sweating, tiredness, poor concentration, and headache.
• Get out of the sun or find a cool place when you start to overheat.
• Drink plenty of water and juice – no caffeine or high sugar drinks - before and throughout the day, regardless of your activity level. Avoid alcohol and high sugar drinks, which cause you to lose body fluid.
• When you are outside, know the location of the closest drinking water supplies.
• Use a buddy system and check on family members and co-workers and senior citizens.
• After work or extended time outside, or if you feel overheated, take acold bath or shower to cool down.
• Provide PROMPT medical attention to anyone who shows signs of heat stroke; the first step is to get them out of the heat!
Parents are especially reminded not to leave children in cars for any period of time. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. Any child or pet left inside is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death.
For more information on heat-related signs of stress and recommendations to prevent heat-related illness, visit the NCDHHS website at www.ncdhhs.gov.