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Hurricanes: Weathering the Storm If You Have Asthma

 

We are currently in the peak of hurricane season, which goes from June 1 to Nov. 31. While preparing for a possible storm, people with asthma need to take extra precautions to reduce chances of an asthma episode or attack.

Be Ready to Evacuate or Be Without Power

Hurricanes, even tropical storms, could mean you have to evacuate depending on where you live. And if you shelter in place, there's a good chance you could be without power for days if the storm comes your way.

In the days following a hurricane, pharmacies may be low in supply or closed. Along with your hurricane supplies, make sure you have the following for every family member with asthma:

  • Enough medicines to last several days
  • Pharmacy and doctor contact information
  • Copies of your Asthma Action Plans
  • Portable, battery-powered nebulizer, if you use one (See our note about nebulizers and COVID-19 below.)
  • Insurance cards

Keep these items handy so you can grab them quickly if you don't get much notice to evacuate. During the storm, consider keeping them in a cooler where they can be protected from heat and water.

Take Additional Precautions Due to COVID-19

Preparing for tropical storms and hurricanes may be more challenging this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. You need to take extra precautions or prepare a bit differently.

Consider these tips as you prepare:

  • Choose home delivery for disaster supplies and prescriptions when possible instead of in-person shopping. If you must shop in person, wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands often.
  • Pack an inhaler (and spacer if you use a metered dose inhaler) in your evacuation kit instead of a nebulizer, if possible. Nebulizers can spread virus particles in the air. You can have COVID-19 and not have symptoms, so don't use a nebulizer around others or in crowded spaces. If you must use a nebulizer, find a way to use it in a separate room away from others. Clean and disinfect the room after using it. 
  • When packing your evacuation kit, include hand sanitizer or hand sanitizing wipes that are at least 60% ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 70% isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol). 
  • If you must evacuate, check with your local government for their direction because of COVID-19. Be prepared for symptom checks, physical distancing and to wear face masks or coverings at shelters. Don't forget to bring extra face masks or coverings.
  • If staying with friends or family, continue to follow steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, such as frequent handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and physical distancing as much as possible. Avoid staying with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information on preparing and evacuating due to hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prepare to Protect Yourself for Cleanup Before the Storm

Mold, pollen, dust and building materials can be a concern after the hurricane passes. Pack gloves and masks rated N95 or higher with your medicines so you can clean up as soon as possible. This is especially important if your home has flooded or has water damage.

Better yet, let a professional do the cleanup, if you can. Look for a reputable professional restoration company. Or ask your homeowner's insurance company to give you the name of one they recommend.

hurricane-debris

Be Aware of Thunderstorm Asthma

Thunderstorm conditions can worsen asthma triggers for people with allergic asthma. During a storm, rain hits pollen grains, causing it to break up into smaller pieces. Then the wind picks them up and spreads them around. It can then be inhaled into the lungs.

The force of the wind, rain and lightning before and during a hurricane can have the same effect. Follow your asthma action plan if you are feeling symptoms.

Watch for Triggers After the Storm Passes

Piles of debris and downed trees can harbor mold, pollen and toxic chemicals that can cause air pollution in your area. Debris pickup may take a while depending on access to your area and availability of resources. Wear a mask and gloves if you clean up any of the debris, and change your clothes as soon as you go indoors.

Don't burn the debris because the smoke and toxic materials can irritate your airways. If neighbors burn their debris, protect yourself from the smoke as much as possible. 

Updated August 2020

Keep these tips in mind and prepare now before the next hurricane or tropical storm is headed to your area. Join our community to follow our blog. Our community provides an opportunity to connect with other patients who manage these conditions for peer support.

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The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is the largest and oldest nonprofit patient organization dedicated to asthma and allergies. Our online community includes public blogs. To post a comment, you will need to register or sign in.

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Thanks, AAFA! Love the blog post! Another thing I learned was to keep in mind supply chain shortages ... even if we're not in the direct path of the storm, we may be hit with gas or food or medication shortages, and our cellular phone service may take a hit.

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