This year Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are dealing with the dual risks of COVID-19 and extreme heat, amongst many other compound disasters. For many staff and volunteers, the heat risks may be amplified due to considerations for COVID-19 like wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). At the same time, vulnerable individuals may be reluctant to seek cool spaces during a heatwave, out of fear of infection. These guidance materials provide practical steps that National Societies can take to protect staff, volunteers, and vulnerable people from heat extremes. This material is adapted from the Global Heat Health Information Network’s Heat and COVID-19 Information Series.
WHICH PEOPLE ARE MOST VULNERABLE TO BOTH HEAT STRESS AND COVID-19?
All people can potentially fall ill to both heat stress and COVID-19.
However, those who are considered the most vulnerable to both are:
• Older people (>65 years and especially >85years);
• People with underlying health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, kidney disease, diabetes / obesity, compromised immune systems, mental health issues (psychiatric disorders, depression);
• Essential workers who work outdoors during the hottest times of the day or who work in places that are not temperature-controlled;
• Health workers and auxiliaries wearing personal protective equipment;
• Pregnant women;
• People living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, especially without adequate cooling and ventilation;
• People who are marginalized and isolated (experiencing homelessness, migrants with language barriers, old people living alone) and those with low income or inadequate housing, including informal settlements;
• People on medication: some medication for the diseases listed above impairs thermoregulation.
The impact of treatment for COVID-19 is currently unknown but should be monitored to assess any additional vulnerability;
• People who have, or are recovering from, COVID-19 (which can be associated with acute kidney injury);
• People in prison, or residential institutions especially if cooling measures are not in place.