As dental professionals take additional precautions to keep themselves and patients safe during the ongoing pandemic, most notably in the form of additional PPE, things might be getting a little hot around the collar—literally.
Extra layers of protective garments, including gowns, head covering, or double masking can cause clinicians to become uncomfortable or even overheated as they provide patient care. Fortunately, there are some simple strategies to employ that can help staff keep cool and comfortable and avoid more serious issues of overheating or becoming dehydrated.
It’s important to note, though, that these are suggestions and not medical advice. If you are really struggling to work with additional PPE you may need to take further action to continue to work safely and comfortably.
When wearing a gown or lab jacket:
- Wear t-shirts or tank tops in a moisture wicking fabric underneath
- Choose lighter color gowns or jackets if possible—dark colors absorb and trap heat faster
- Wear a cooling vest underneath
- Utilize reusable cooling packs, towels, and other similar items around your neck or under gown as needed
When wearing head coverings:
- Keep hair cut shorter or pulled back to keep it off your neck
- Wear as large a size as possible to allow more air-flow
- Wet hair before covering your head (but make sure it’s just damp—too wet hair can decrease efficacy of the head covering)
- Stay hydrated by drinking water before you start work and throughout the day—even when you don’t feel thirsty
- Ensure the schedule allows for breaks between patients to cool down, including removing masks, gowns, etc.
- Use body powders to absorb excess moisture and help avoid chaffing or skin irritation
- Apply a drop of peppermint oil to the back of the neck to create a cooling sensation
We know that everyone’s experience with additional PPE is slightly different and that one strategy that works for some, may not work for others. However, taking the time to figure out what helps you provide patient care as comfortably as possible is important.
Perhaps, the easiest way to help avoid serious consequences from overheating due to additional PPE as mentioned above is to ensure you stay hydrated. This will help with your body’s natural cooling process, and while it may seem like common sense, in the busyness of a day drinking water can fall to the back burner.
And in instances where working effectively truly becomes difficult or your body is telling you something is wrong, don’t ignore it. Tell someone and take a break. You need to take care of yourself to be able to care for your patients.
For a more detailed look at these tips for staying cool and safe, this article by Dentistry IQ is a great resource.