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Flu, RSV and COVID: Teaching EMTs and Paramedics to Prepare for the Seasonal Increase in Respiratory Incidents

by  Public Safety Group     Nov 4, 2022
paramedic_treating_patient_respiratory_event

As seasons change, so does the frequency of different types of emergencies. There is already evidence to suggest there will be an uptick in influenza infections, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), particularly in children, as well as future occurrences of COVID-19. Being prepared to teach EMTs and paramedics how to identify and treat more of these incidences in the cold-weather months, as well as stocking ambulances with sufficient related supplies and equipment, can help EMTs and paramedics treat patients while staying safe during cold-weather months.

Let’s look specifically at respiratory emergencies—what brings on their increase and how practitioners can best prepare to treat patients experiencing respiratory distress.

Influenza, RSV, Covid and Other Viruses

The rise of influenza begins in the fall, which often affects the respiratory system and can be severe depending on the strain, patient age, vaccination status, and comorbidities that make some patients more susceptible to infection. It’s no surprise that an increase in influenza is associated with more ED visits and hospital admissions. At least one study also found an association between recent respiratory infections and acute coronary syndromes—another condition to be aware during assessments.

Much can be done to prepare for an increase in respiratory emergencies. As researchers Clare Liddy, Heather Dreise, and Isabelle Gaboury recommend, emergency plans could include a sufficient supply of N95 masks and other PPE to protect all EMS practitioners during calls and updates for equipment used to treat respiratory conditions.

Additionally, training should prepare practitioners to be mindful in the fall season for more respiratory emergencies related to not only influenza but also RSV and COVID-19. Comprehensive texts such as Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured and Nancy Caroline’s Emergency Care in the Streets, dig deep into respiratory measures and equipment, treatment, and medication options. Instructors can also teach case studies on respiratory emergencies by setting the scene for them in the fall and emphasizing seasonal upticks during periodic discussions on respiratory emergencies.

Asthma

Because asthma incidents peak in the fall, it’s essential for practitioners to be prepared for an increase in emergency cases. About 11 people in the U.S. die from asthma each day. In 2020, deaths from asthma rose for the first time in 20 years, resulting in 4,145 deaths, most of which could have been prevented with the appropriate care.

Training using comprehensive courses in respiratory pathophysiology, assessment, management, and medication are recommended to help practitioners learn approaches for different populations. Increased supplies should be stocked for vehicles in the fall; Liddy, Dreise, and Goboury advise stocking salbutamol for different ages, for example, and Advanced Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured’s authors recommend metered-dose inhalers and includes a discussion on pediatric asthma care.

Other Respiratory Conditions

EMTs and paramedics should watch for a variety of respiratory conditions in cold-weather months: Incidents of pneumonia, atelectasis, pulmonary edema, COPD, and ARDs tend to flare up during cold-weather months. An instructor’s use of case studies and historical context can help practitioners learn how to differentiate a variety of respiratory emergency causes, severity, and treatments. Caroline’s discussion on COPD, for example, can help students understand the severity of what they’ll likely encounter when called to help patients with this chronic condition. As the book notes, “Over the years, people with COPD learn how much exertion they can tolerate, in which position sleep is possible, and so forth. Thus, when a person with COPD calls for EMS assistance, it nearly always means something has changed for the worse.”

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Flu, RSV and COVID: Teaching EMTs and Paramedics to Prepare for the Seasonal Increase in Respiratory Incidents

by  Public Safety Group     Nov 4, 2022
paramedic_treating_patient_respiratory_event

As seasons change, so does the frequency of different types of emergencies. There is already evidence to suggest there will be an uptick in influenza infections, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), particularly in children, as well as future occurrences of COVID-19. Being prepared to teach EMTs and paramedics how to identify and treat more of these incidences in the cold-weather months, as well as stocking ambulances with sufficient related supplies and equipment, can help EMTs and paramedics treat patients while staying safe during cold-weather months.

Let’s look specifically at respiratory emergencies—what brings on their increase and how practitioners can best prepare to treat patients experiencing respiratory distress.

Influenza, RSV, Covid and Other Viruses

The rise of influenza begins in the fall, which often affects the respiratory system and can be severe depending on the strain, patient age, vaccination status, and comorbidities that make some patients more susceptible to infection. It’s no surprise that an increase in influenza is associated with more ED visits and hospital admissions. At least one study also found an association between recent respiratory infections and acute coronary syndromes—another condition to be aware during assessments.

Much can be done to prepare for an increase in respiratory emergencies. As researchers Clare Liddy, Heather Dreise, and Isabelle Gaboury recommend, emergency plans could include a sufficient supply of N95 masks and other PPE to protect all EMS practitioners during calls and updates for equipment used to treat respiratory conditions.

Additionally, training should prepare practitioners to be mindful in the fall season for more respiratory emergencies related to not only influenza but also RSV and COVID-19. Comprehensive texts such as Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured and Nancy Caroline’s Emergency Care in the Streets, dig deep into respiratory measures and equipment, treatment, and medication options. Instructors can also teach case studies on respiratory emergencies by setting the scene for them in the fall and emphasizing seasonal upticks during periodic discussions on respiratory emergencies.

Asthma

Because asthma incidents peak in the fall, it’s essential for practitioners to be prepared for an increase in emergency cases. About 11 people in the U.S. die from asthma each day. In 2020, deaths from asthma rose for the first time in 20 years, resulting in 4,145 deaths, most of which could have been prevented with the appropriate care.

Training using comprehensive courses in respiratory pathophysiology, assessment, management, and medication are recommended to help practitioners learn approaches for different populations. Increased supplies should be stocked for vehicles in the fall; Liddy, Dreise, and Goboury advise stocking salbutamol for different ages, for example, and Advanced Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured’s authors recommend metered-dose inhalers and includes a discussion on pediatric asthma care.

Other Respiratory Conditions

EMTs and paramedics should watch for a variety of respiratory conditions in cold-weather months: Incidents of pneumonia, atelectasis, pulmonary edema, COPD, and ARDs tend to flare up during cold-weather months. An instructor’s use of case studies and historical context can help practitioners learn how to differentiate a variety of respiratory emergency causes, severity, and treatments. Caroline’s discussion on COPD, for example, can help students understand the severity of what they’ll likely encounter when called to help patients with this chronic condition. As the book notes, “Over the years, people with COPD learn how much exertion they can tolerate, in which position sleep is possible, and so forth. Thus, when a person with COPD calls for EMS assistance, it nearly always means something has changed for the worse.”

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