Development of a screening tool for assessment of climate change-related heat illness in the clinical setting

J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2023 May 1;35(5):291-298. doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000856.

Abstract

Extreme heat contributes to heat-related illnesses resulting from heat intolerance, which is the inability to maintain a thermal balance to tolerate heat stress. In the United States, heat-related mortality for older persons has almost doubled in the past 20 years. Other populations at risk for heat-related illness (HRI) include children, pregnant people, those who work outside, young people participating in outdoor sports, and at-risk populations such as Black, indigenous, and populations of color. The classic heat tolerance test used for decades monitoring physiological responses to repetitive motions is impractical across large and potentially health challenged populations and does not identify environmental or social factors or specific vulnerable populations. To address this issue, we developed a heat-related illness screening tool (HIST) to identify individuals at risk for HRI morbidity and mortality based on their physical, environmental, and social vulnerabilities with an emphasis on populations of concern. The HIST has the potential to be used as routine clinical screening in the same way as other commonly used screening tools. Heat intolerance affects patient outcomes and quality of life; therefore, early screening with a simple, easy-to-administer screening tool such as the HIST can identify people at risk and refer them to services that address heat exposure and/or create safety nets to prevent heat-related illnesses.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Climate Change
  • Extreme Heat*
  • Heat Stress Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • United States