How HVAC Systems Have Helped Create An Ideal Environment For People With Epilepsy

While comfort and convenience are evident benefits of having HVAC systems in homes and businesses today, I would like to discuss another benefit of having such systems that may be less obvious to the average American.  Although I am only twenty-one years old, I have had the incredible opportunity of serving as a full time caregiver for many children and adults with special needs by working at Camp Barnabas.  Camp Barnabas is a summer camp for people with special needs.  Having an HVAC system at a summer camp may seem like a luxury but at Camp Barnabas and in the homes of our campers, it is a necessity.

Temperature regulation is extremely important for many individuals with special needs.  Numerous campers of mine dealt with epilepsy as a part of their everyday lives and having a controlled environment is essential in the prevention of seizures.  Epilepsy is extremely common among people with special needs such as autism, cerebral palsy, Angelman syndrome, and a variety of other diagnoses.  During hot summer months, it could be extremely dangerous to an individual who is medically fragile to be without air conditioning.

Another diagnosis that I have seen among children with special needs is the rare disorder of Anhidrosis.  Anhidrosis is the inability for the body to sweat, which can lead to potentially fatal heat strokes.  A controlled environment is so important for individuals who are faced with this diagnosis and having an HVAC system can help to achieve that stability.  Additionally, children with autism can also be extremely sensitive to temperature as well as appropriate clothing for given environmental conditions.  Some children with autism are not able to tolerate layered clothing or thick coats and blankets as it can be over stimulating for them.  For this reason, having a modern in home heating system allows them to live a more comfortable life without the struggle of sensory overload due to winter clothes.  This is a seemingly small but profound benefit of having an HVAC system for families of a child with autism.

Lastly, extreme temperatures can affect equipment that is used by children and adults with special needs. One temperature regulation issue could be swelling and sweating that takes place and affects individuals who depend on a prosthetic limb.  Hot conditions can result in swelling, which affects the way the prosthetic fits and sweating, which can result in chaffing or the prosthesis slipping.  I have had the incredible opportunity to work with children in a prosthesis clinic and as a pediatric physical therapist, many of my future patients will be amputees.  I want them to be as functional as possible to lead an active lifestyle and temperature control can help to make their prosthesis fit comfortably in order to achieve their maximum degree of functionality.  Wheel chair seats can also be extremely uncomfortable when they get too hot and result in chaffing and sores on sensitive skin.  An HVAC system will ensure that individuals who use a wheel chair are comfortable and can utilize their chair as needed.  Another piece of equipment that I have learned about is feeding tubes.  Many campers at Camp Barnabas utilize a feeding tube for every meal and feeding tube formula must be at room temperature.  An HVAC system in a home ensures that feeding tube formulas are always at a safe and healthy temperature even when weather conditions outside are harsh.

There are a variety of other chronic diagnoses that affect temperature regulation and having an HVAC system can make the lives of individuals who experience this daily challenge much more comfortable and safe.  So often, people recognize how HVAC systems are necessary in hospitals but are unaware of how important an HVAC system is for individuals who are medically fragile but are still able to live at home.  The parents of children with special needs depend on their HVAC system to make their everyday lives easier.  As a future physical therapist for children and as someone hoping to adopt a child with special needs in the future, I am appreciative of any and every aspect of life that can make life more functional and comfortable for people who have special needs.  While an HVAC system is often taken for granted, I believe that it plays a vital role in the health of the individuals who hold such a special place in my heart.


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