Staying Healthy During a Hurricane
NEW ORLEANS - If you suffer from a chronic illness or condition, don't let a natural disaster leave you unprepared. As many people learned from Katrina, you'll need all of your emotional and physical health to deal in a disaster. Dr. Joe Guarisco, Ochsner System Chairman of Emergency Medicine explains, "Chronic conditions to be aware of during a disaster are those that require ongoing treatment or medications such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, heart-related problems, cancer, lupus, dialysis and many more."
"After Katrina, we were overwhelmed by patients who needed their daily medications but didn't know what they were taking or correct dosages," says Dr. Guarisco. "By preparing ahead of time, you can take your health into your own hands." He recommends the following these steps:
- List your allergies and sensitivities, and names of all medications, dosages, and condition for which you are being treated. Also, the name of the doctor who prescribed it and a phone number.
- Pack at least a seven-day supply of essential medications and your pharmacist's phone number.
- Bring any adaptive equipment and/or body support equipment you require.
- Practice how to quickly explain to people the best way to care for you, guide you, or move you safely.
- Be ready to give brief, clear, and specific instructions. For example:
- "Please take my oxygen tank, wheelchair, or insulin from the refrigerator."
- "Please do not straighten my knees."
- "I am Blind/visually impaired. Please let me grasp your arm."
Another important tip for anyone is to have your medical records. "Patients of Ochsner Health System have an electronic medical record (EMR) which is accessible electronically at any Ochsner location throughout southeast Louisiana," says Guarisco. If you are not an Ochsner patient, check with your medical provider about how your medical records are stored and possibly gaining copies in advance. This could be life-saving.
"The most important step to maintaining your health during a disaster is to monitor your symptoms and prepare in advance with a complete medical information list," concludes Guarisco. Tips include:
- Copies of health insurance cards and the hospitals you can access; the closest ER to your evacuation site
- Your medical providers: physicians names and phone numbers (After hours), and evacuation locations]
- Allergies and sensitivities, and any communication or cognitive difficulties you may have.
- Medication necessities:
- Names of all medications, including over-the-counter, dosages and times, medical conditions
- At least a seven-day supply of all medications; extra supplies and copies of prescriptions.
- Learn the shelf life of your medications and the temperatures at which they should be stored.
- If medications are administered at a clinic/hospital (such as methadone, dialysis, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy), ask your provider how you should prepare and locate an alternate location to receive treatment.