Four ways to stay healthy during a hurricane

Four ways to protect your health during hurricane season

By: Katharine Orr, FIHI Blogger

Tropical storms and hurricanes are a norm for Floridians and its visitors, and most people prepare for them by taking measures to protect their homes and businesses. Indeed this is an important task, however the risks imposed by extreme tropical weather continue after the storm has passed. Flooding and the lack of prompt medical care, for example, can pose public health risks. Review these tips to keep you and your family healthy when extreme weather hits.

  • Take a course in first aid skills. Response times and/or access to health professionals can be limited due to storm damage, so the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) recommends learning and practicing response skills, like first aid and CPR.
    Avoid wading in floodwater. It can be contaminated with raw sewage, dead animals, gasoline, and other biological and chemical hazards.
  • Store enough non-perishable food and water for a minimum of three days. Ready.gov recommends having at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation, however also consider additional water for cooking and personal hygiene. Pets and infants will also need their own supply of food and water.
  • Safeguard medications, medical supplies, and a first aid kit. If someone requires a power-dependent medical device be sure to include batteries specifically for this device. Keep these supplies dry and close-by in case an evacuation order is given.
  • Consider adding personal protective equipment to your supply list. In addition to food, water, batteries, and other necessities like extra clothes and blankets, consider items like dust masks. They can help protect you during clean-up and from contaminated air.
  • Insect repellent and protection. Standing water is very likely to be present after a storm, and it serves as a breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes. While standing water after a storm is not always feasible to promptly address you can still take measures to prevent bites and stings. Protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses, like West Nile Virus, by having at least 30% DEET bug spray, or other EPA-approved repellents such as products containing Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 as active ingredients (WTSP, 2015). Always check the label to check for suitability for children and proper use. Mosquito netting should be used to protect infants and children under two months of age.
  • Address water damage in your home or business promptly. Unattended water damage will very likely result in mold growth that will proliferate as time goes on. Black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) produces mycotoxins that can cause respiratory illness in healthy individuals, and it can be more detrimental to those with asthma or other breathing illnesses/conditions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).

For more tips and items to have on-hand before extreme weather hits, check out these resources: FEMA.gov –

Emergency Supply List
www.Ready.gov
FEMA.gov – Food and Water in an Emergency
FEMA.gov – How to Prepare for a Hurricane Guide

References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, July 13). Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum and Other Molds. Retrieved from CDC.gov: http://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm
WTSP. (2015, August 28). Pinellas man contracts West Nile Virus. Retrieved from 10 News: http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/local/2015/08/28/pinellas-man-contracts-west-nile-virus/71317348/

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