Here we are in the middle of a very cold, very snowy winter and I get the inspiration to write an article on portable blanket warmers. Do you think there is any correlation there? This winter has not been very kind to those of us in the upper mid west. It seems staying warm is on the minds of everyone I meet these days. When I ask my wife what our plans are for the evening her standard response is "sit by the fire." What is it about warmth that is so comforting and soothing to our bodies?
I remember on a trip to Honolulu in 2006 we stayed at a hotel owned by a Japanese company. This hotel has a custom of offering their guests hot damp wash clothes at the front desk when they check in. I did not particularly feel a need to wipe my hands and face at the time. Rather than offending my host I obliged. I was amazed at how relaxing that warm wash cloth felt on my face.
I remember another time as I was being prepped for surgery in the OR. A nurse placed a warm blanket over my entire body. I wasn't cold before she did this but that warm blanket provided a calming presence for me that I cannot explain. So this made me ask the question "What is the effect of heat on the healing process?"
Healthcare professionals tell us that uncomfortable patients do not heal as quickly. Their treatments are far less effective. Many studies have proved that warmth to the body can greatly enhance patient comfort and the healing process. As I stated earlier, heat promotes the relaxation of our bodies and it works as a pain reliever. One of the main goals of the healing process is to increase blood flow to the area of trauma or illness. Heat causes increased blood flow in our bodies which increases our blood oxygen levels. This aids in tissue functions. All of these benefits are very essential to the healing process.
Traditionally warm blankets have been used in the OR, the ER, for dialysis patients and chemotherapy patients. With the advent of portable blanket warmers the healthcare industry is finding new and unique areas for this technology. Hospital blanket warmers used to be large, expensive industrial pieces of equipment. The size of these warmers limited where they could be used. The cost limited how many a facility could afford. The small size and low cost of portable blanket warmers allows medical facilities to place blanket warmers in more locations. This means more patients get to benefit from this technology.
These portable blanket warmers are a bag style warmer, similar to the technology used in mobile pizza warmers. They are FDA approved for use in medical facilities. Now a blanket warmer can be an investment of a just few hundred dollars and can sit on a shelf. Multiple port AC adapters allow for up to six warmers to use a single electrical connection. Portable blanket warmers are simple to operate. Thermostatically controlled they maintain a constant temperature of 160-175 degrees. The portable blanket warmers come in various sizes. This allows you to heat as few as two blankets or as many as eight. Their portability allows the units to easily be transported between various departments. Soiled blanket warmers can be washed in a commercial washer. These are just some of their many benefits.
This technology has also allowed warm blankets to go mobile. Since the portable blanket warmers operate on 12 volt DC power they are becoming standard equipment in many EMS vehicles. We all know that the best way to prevent shock is to wrap the victim in a blanket. Think of the added benefit a patient will receive from a warm blanket. Warm blankets can be very helpful in trauma cases with multiple victims. EMS personnel can cover less serious victims with a warm blanket to help stabilize them. Then they can care for patients with more life threatening injuries.
Time is of the essence in hypothermia trauma cases. The longer a hypothermia victim remains in a cold environment, the less their chances of survival are. In a 2005 Flint, MI ice rescue it was reported that warm blankets saved a woman's life. EMS personnel used warm blankets to raise the patients core body temperature while transporting her to the hospital. The patients core body temperature was raised from the low eighties to 95.1 degrees F by the time she arrived at the hospital.
Remember that hypothermia is not just a winter time or northern climate problem. There are many documented cases of summertime hypothermia. Victims of boating accidents can suffer the effects of hypothermia. People caught outside in rainstorms without proper protection are also at risk. Any water cool enough to pull the heat out of your body can bring on hypothermia.
Portable blanket warmer technology has become a very useful tool for the healthcare industry. I think we're still at the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended) with this technology. I believe that the longer this technology is around the more uses medical personnel will find for it.