Health concerns linger after hurricane passes

GLENN ELLIS | 10/8/2018, 11:44 a.m.
All of us, at any given time, can find ourselves in the path of a hurricane, or have loved ones ...
Sheila Dixon, who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, sheds a tear as she embraces her baby, thankful to be alive, but shaken by the excessive flooding. AP File Photo

Although researchers debate whether people who live through hurricanes have more respiratory issues, one study of more than 1,200 children and teens found that younger people in hurricane areas are more likely to get upper and lower respiratory infections after the storm.

The biggest health concern from a flood may be mental, studies show.

Hurricanes and flooding generate additional anxiety, depression and stress. The storms can exacerbate existing mental health problems or lead to new ones.

Stress is common both during and after any natural disaster. Tears may come easier, sleep may be a challenge, worry or a desire to be alone may be especially strong, thinking may become muddled, and it may be hard to remember things or to listen to people. And it may be hard to even accept help, experts say.

Some people may develop problems related to the lingering challenges associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, but the majority of those affected should recover in time. People who have strong bonds with family, friends and co-workers tend to recover best, so experts suggest paying close attention to those relationships to help speed recovery.

The hurricanes that hit the U.S. also unleashed a cloud of pollutants that pose health dangers – in both the short term and long term.

When Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans, one of many concerns in its wake was contamination.

Several chemical plants, petroleum refining facilities and contaminated sites, including Superfund sites, were covered by floodwaters. In addition, hundreds of commercial establishments, such as service stations, pest control businesses and dry cleaners, may have released potentially hazardous chemicals into the floodwaters.

The hurricane may have gone, but health concerns and disease risk remains for all who went through it.

Disclaimer: This column is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition or concern, please seek professional care from your doctor or other health professional. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through http://www.glennellis.com.