It’s getting so hot, EMTs are putting overheated people in iced body bags

    Phoenix Fire Captain John Prato demonstrates how emergency medical professionals can treat heat stroke with ice and a body bag.

    Anita Snow/AP Photo

    Medical professionals are turning body bags into cooling baths to treat heat-related illnesses.Immersing patients in cold water quickly reduces body temperature and can prevent serious damage.Fire trucks and ambulances in Phoenix now carry these immersion bags as standard equipment.

    This summer, medical professionals will use body bags to save lives. They’re turning them into portable cooling baths to treat people with heat-related illnesses.

    Last year was the hottest summer on record, with places like Phoenix reaching over 110 degrees for 31 consecutive days. There were 2,302 heat-related deaths in the US, alone, and temperatures this year could be even worse, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    To treat heat-related illnesses, emergency medical professionals in Phoneix started using modified body bags called “immersion bags,” The New York Times reported. They’ve been working so well that they’re now standard equipment for the city’s fire trucks and ambulances, according to The Guardian.

    Quickly submerging a heat stroke patient in icy water is one of the most effective ways to quickly bring down the body temperature.

    When a person’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above, the body has difficulty cooling itself down. This can cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, and other organs.

    “The sooner you can get the body cooled closer to baseline, the quicker you can resolve the symptoms as well as prevent some of the more severe complications,” Sam Shen, a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University, told Business Insider.

    Because time is so critical, medical responders will typically “cool first, transport second,” meaning they will try to drop the patient’s temperature to below 102.2 °F before moving them to the hospital, according to national EMS guidelines.

    Since finding a suitably sized tub outdoors is difficult, some first responders have started using these leak-proof body bags as a makeshift ice bath instead.

    First responders across the country are using ice-filled body bags

    Dr. Alexander St. John from Harborview Medical Center used ice-filled body bags to cool patients during a Seattle heat wave.

    Stephen Brashear/AP Photo

    Several years ago, Shen had an 87-year-old patient with heat stroke. Grant Lipman, who was Shen’s colleague at the time, had a background in wilderness medicine. He suggested placing the woman in a body bag filled with ice.

    “It was a kind of improvised solution but based on a known technique,” Shen said.

    It worked well and was novel enough that Shen, Lipman, and other colleagues wrote up the treatment in a 2020 paper. Just a year later, medical professionals in Washington used the method during a heat wave.

    That same year, doctors from the University of Kansas School of Medicine also started training EMS professionals to use water from fire hydrants in cooling bags. In a study, they profiled five patients who received the ice bath treatment. In one case, it only took eight minutes to effectively drop the person’s body temperature.

    Special body bags for cooling baths will be standard equipment for ambulances and fire trucks in Phoenix.

    Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

    During the last couple of years, emergency responders and doctors in Arizona, California, and Texas have also used body bag cooling baths for patients with severe heat-related symptoms.

    Patients are closely monitored inside the bag

    In the past, some medical professionals feared that dropping body temperature too quickly could lead to other complications, like stroke. That’s why patients need careful monitoring during the treatment.

    The treatment involves putting the person in the bag and submerging them up to their armpits in an ice-water slurry. Professionals monitor their vital signs and body temperature then remove them and dry them off once they’re out of the danger zone. It typically takes less than 15 minutes.

    Shen said there are a few reasons why the body bags make an ideal container for an ice bath in the field. “It’s inexpensive. It’s accessible,” he said. And the medical professional can still see and touch the person in the bag. “It’s just a convenient way to still monitor the patient while they’re immersed in the water solution.”

    Read the original article on Business Insider


    Latest posts