Category Archives: Prevention

It is getting hotter; take steps to avoid heatstroke

As the weather gets warmer, DHEC warns you to take precautions to avoid heatstroke.

While going about your daily activities — whether exercising or simply traveling to the grocery store to shop — be sure to protect yourself and others from possible heatstroke. It’s not safe to leave a person in a parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the windows are cracked or the car is in shade. It is important to note that children’s body temperatures warm at a rate three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Heatstroke requires emergency treatment

Untreated heatstroke can cause damage to your body, especially your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage gets worse the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number. Take steps cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

  • Get the person into shade or indoors.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Cool the person with whatever means available — put them in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray them with a garden hose, sponge them with cool water, fan them while misting them with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on their head, neck, armpits and groin.

Heatstroke symptoms include:

  • High body temperature: 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior: Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, etc.
  • Alteration in sweating: Heatstroke brought on by hot weather can cause skin to feel hot and dry to the touch. Heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise causes skin may feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Flushed skin.
  • Rapid breathing.
  •  Racing heart rate.
  •  Headache.

Heatstroke is predictable and preventable

Take these steps to prevent heatstroke:

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Protect against sunburn: Protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take extra precautions with certain medications. Be on the lookout for heat-related problems if you take medications that can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated.
  • Never leave anyone in a parked car. This is a common cause of heat-related deaths in children. When parked in the sun, the temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees F (more than 6.7 C) in 10 minutes.
  • Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Get acclimated. Limit the amount of time spent working or exercising in heat until you’re conditioned to it. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust.
  • Be cautious if you’re at increased risk. If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating. If you participate in a strenuous sporting event or activity in hot weather, make sure there are medical services available in case of a heat emergency.

World Hand Hygiene Day is May 5

Natasha Wright, RN, MSN
DHEC HAI Nurse Consultant

While there won’t be a cake with several tiers, beautiful gowns or champagne toasts, hand hygiene is definitely a subject worthy of its own day to “celebrate.”

In the pursuit of preventing all healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) urge all health care facilities and organizations to join us in highlighting the single most important practice supported by evidence in helping eliminate cross-contamination and reduce HAIs—proper and thorough hand hygiene2.

Up to 70 percent of HAIs that occur yearly could be prevented if health care workers follow recommended protocols, which include proper hand washing3. Even with all of the evidence of its effectiveness and emphasis placed on the importance of hand cleanliness, a 2010 study that examined research on global practices found that only roughly 40 percent of health care workers comply with recommended hand washing guidelines3.

A Few (Not-So-Fun) Facts:

  1. Studies show that some health care providers practice hand hygiene less than half of the times they should. Health care providers might need to clean their hands as many as 100 times per 12-hour shift, depending on the number of patients and intensity of care. Know what it could take to keep your patients safe1.
  2. On any given day, about 1 in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection. Many germs that cause these infections are spread from patient to patient on the hands of health care providers1.
  3. There are three areas most often missed by health care providers when using alcohol-based hand sanitizer: thumbs, fingertips and between fingers1.
  4. A few barriers to completely following recommended guidelines are3:
  • Inconvenient placement of sinks and/or hand sanitizer dispensers, or empty soap or sanitizer dispensers;
  • Health care workers concerned about drying out their skin;
  • Overlooking hand cleanliness due to the workload of a health care worker and/or a chaotic environment;
  • The belief that wearing gloves when providing care is sufficient in preventing the spread of germs.

Hand Sanitizer or Soap and Water1?

  1. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the preferred method for cleaning your hands when they are not visibly dirty because it:
  • Is more effective at killing potentially deadly germs on hands than soap;
  • Requires less time;
  • Is more accessible than hand washing sinks;
  • Reduces bacterial counts on hands;
  • Improves skin condition with less irritation and dryness than soap and water.
  1. Use soap and water when hands are visibly soiled and/or when working with a patient or an environment in which you may come into contact with contaminants.
  2. Although the amount of time for proper hand washing with soap and water varies from 15 seconds to 30 seconds (depending on the study), hands should be vigorously scrubbed for a minimum of 15 seconds.
  3. Remember “My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene”4:
  • Before touching a patient;
  • Before clean/aseptic procedures;
  • After body fluid exposure/risk;
  • After touching a patient;
  • After touching a patient’s surroundings.

Still Room for Improvement

In a world where health care is continuously changing, one thing has remained constant—routine and thorough hand washing is essential for preventing the spread of germs (including the increasing threat of those resistant to antibiotics) and the development of HAIs in patients. While the health care field is far from the days when gloves were barely worn and hand hygiene was an afterthought, we are not at 100 percent compliance in our facilities. Whether it is through the use of the traditional soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, proper handwashing must continue to be highlighted and emphasized by all champions of infection prevention because it is one practice that will remain constant for years to come.

Useful Resources for World Hand Hygiene Day

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Clean Hands Count Campaign

cdc.gov/handhygiene/index.html

World Health Organization (WHO) Save Lives: Clean Your Hands Campaign

Theme for 2017–Fight antibiotic resistance – it’s in your hands

who.int/gpsc/5may/en/

 References:

  1. CDC. (2016). Show Me the Science. cdc.gov/handhygiene/science/index.html
  2. Infection Control Today. (2017). infectioncontroltoday.com/topics/hand-hygiene.aspx
  3. Saint, S. (2016). Hand washing stops infections, so why do health care workers skip it? theconversation.com/hand-washing-stops-infections-so-why-do-health-care-workers-skip-it-58763
  4. WHO. (2017). My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene. who.int/gpsc/5may/background/5moments/en/

Pledge to keep your body, heart and brain healthy

DHEC is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter, The American Heart Association and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and brain health.

Protect your body, heart and brain

DHEC and its partners will collaborate on a campaign that encourages people to Take Brain Health to Heart. A key element of the effort is a pledge — which can be found at www.scdhec.gov/brainhealthpledge — that encourages residents to keep their body, heart and brain healthy.

The campaign is designed to educate and mobilize South Carolinians to protect their brain health by being more active, eating better and taking other steps. Research has shown that smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes may contribute to cognitive decline. It has also found that unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and brain injury may affect the health of the brain.

Message key for S.C.’s aging population

This is an important message in South Carolina, whose population is getting older. While Alzheimer’s and dementia are not a normal part of aging, getting older is the greatest risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, 84,000 people over the age of 65 are reported to be living with Alzheimer’s disease in South Carolina.  By 2025, that number is expected to grow to 120,000, according to the SC Alzheimer’s disease registry report. South Carolina has one of the fastest-aging adult populations in the country, ranking in the top 10. That population is expected to increase to 1.1 million by 2029, resulting in one in five South Carolinians being over age 65.

South Carolina is one of seven states to receive funding to reduce stigma, promote early diagnosis and address risk reduction factors associated with cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The effort is funded by a collaborative that includes the Alzheimer’s Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Take the pledge

Over the next few months, DHEC, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association and Eat Smart Move More will jointly focus on messaging regarding heart and brain health and cognitive decline.

The campaign will feature a centralized DHEC Brain Health webpage. Each partner organization will have a link to the page, which will include health education materials, social media messages and a call to action in the form of a pledge about healthy lifestyle changes. People who visit the page and take the pledge will be entered into a monthly drawing for a Fitbit, beginning this month and ending June 30. Please visit the webpage at www.scdhec.gov/brainhealth and take the pledge.

The value of immunizations for infants can’t be overstated

Immunizations save lives. There is no denying it: Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Just consider some of the milestones shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.
  • In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Many physicians today have never seen a case of the measles.
  • Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

The importance of immunizations

Immunizations play a valuable role in protecting the health of not only our children, but families and communities. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

The success of vaccines in preventing disease can’t be overstated. Each year we pause to observe National Infant Immunization Week, which this year runs from April 22-29.  It is a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.  It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring all children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the United States. It’s easy for measles to spread when it reaches communities in the United States — or anywhere else — where groups of people are unvaccinated.

The best way to protect against childhood diseases

Remember, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from serious diseases, like whooping cough and measles.  Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines are recommended for your child, and make sure you keep all immunization and well-child appointments.  For more information about how to protect your child with immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/protecting-children/index.html.

Make getting vaccinations less stressful

Even though you know you are keeping her safe from diseases, it’s hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. But you can take some steps to make the process less stressful.

The CDC suggests trying the following tips before, during and after shots:

For babies and younger children

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is OK.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

For older children and adolescents

  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories. Be sure to pack their favorite book!
  • Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”

Morning News: Heart Health Screenings, Fighting Flu and Vitamin D

DHEC is partnering with the Heart2Heart Foundation on Statewide Screening Day for heart disease risks, including an event in the Upstate:

Heart health evaluations and risk assessments are free to Upstate residents 18 years of age and older.

People can receive a comprehensive screenings  from 7 to 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, or The Well.

Dr. Teresa Foo shared the latest about widespread flu cases across the country and in South Carolina:

Doctors with the Department Of Health and Environmental Control describe this year’s flu season as unpredictable and they say the best protection is to get a flu shot.

More than 2,700 cases have been reported statewide since October. During flu season this time last year, there weren’t nearly as many cases, with more than 4,000 reported statewide.

Speaking of flu, a new study finds that Vitamin D may help fortify you against respiratory ailments:

It’s long been known that vitamin D helps protect our bones, but the question of whether taking vitamin D supplements helps guard immunity has been more controversial. An analysis published Wednesday suggests the sunshine vitamin can help reduce the risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu — especially among people who don’t get enough of the vitamin from diet or exposure to sunlight.