If you have asthma, natural disasters could affect your health in unexpected ways. Chronic medical conditions like asthma can become worse when wildfires, tornadoes, severe flooding or earthquakes occur.
Asthma flare-ups during a disaster can happen because of:
- Allergens in the air (pollen, mold, etc.)
- Irritants in the air (dust, smoke)
- Losing access to your treatments due to evacuation
- Strong emotions (fear, anxiety)
Now is a good time to create a disaster planning kit with your asthma in mind. Hopefully, you never have to use it.
Keep your kit in a safe spot in your home. You want it accessible in case you need to leave in a hurry, or if you have to shelter-in-place for a few days.
Wildfire Season Has Begun – and It Affects Air Quality and Asthma – Wildfires do not only affect those in the immediate fire area. Smoke can blow many miles away and impact people hundreds of miles away.
Hurricanes: Weathering the Storm If You Have Asthma – 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.
What should you put in a disaster kit? That depends on your specific needs. This list is a starting point:
1. Medicine, medical supplies and equipment
The American Red Cross recommends including a seven-day supply of medicine in your disaster kit. Keep track of the expiration dates of the medicines inside the kit, starting with the medicine that expires first. You can do this by listing the contents of the kit on an index card. Ask your pharmacist for extra labels and vials so that all medicines are labeled correctly.
- Quick-relief asthma inhalers
- Daily long-term control asthma medicines
- Allergy medicines, such as antihistamines and nasal sprays
- Other emergency medicines, such as epinephrine in case of severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis
- Eczema lotions and medicines
- Other medicines prescribed by your doctor
- Pain relievers, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Nebulizer (portable, battery powered)
- Extra tubing and nebulizer parts
- Dust mask to shield your mouth and nose from blowing dust, dirt or other airborne asthma triggers
- First aid supplies, such as bandages, antibiotic cream, etc. If someone is allergic to latex, make sure your kit is latex-free.
2. Important paperwork
Keep printed copies of important documents stored with your emergency kit. Electronic access won’t be available if the power is out or telecommunications networks are down.
- Asthma action plans
- Insurance cards
- Phone numbers of family and friends in case your phone runs out of power
- Names and numbers of your doctors and pharmacies
- Lists of medicines you take and doses
3. Food and water
Food provided by shelters may not be safe if someone in your family has food allergies. Even if the ingredients are safe, there is the potential for cross-contamination.
Keep at least a three-day supply of food and water on hand for each person in your household. Have it packed and ready to go in an evacuation kit so that you don’t have to waste time assembling it during a crisis.
Here are some foods that might work, depending on your family’s food allergy or dietary needs:
- Special medical foods and formulas
- Proteins: beef jerky, sunflower/soy/pea/peanut/other nut butter, tuna pouches, Spam™, canned beans, canned chicken, canned ham
- Grains: cereal, oatmeal, crackers, trail mix, cereal bars
- Produce: canned fruit, canned vegetables, applesauce
- Snacks: fruit snacks/leathers, chips, pretzels, cookies, candy, non-perishable fruit pouches or fruit cups
- Drinks: juice pouches, bottled water
- Other supplies: disposable plates, cups, utensils, manual can opener
- Pets: supply of safe food, their medications and bowls
Kids With Food Allergies, a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, has more tips on preparing for natural disasters when your family has food allergies.
4. Other supplies that may be helpful
- Extra chargers and portable battery packs for your phone
- Extension cords
- Hand wipes
- A corded landline phone (phones that require electricity or cell service may not be available)
- Medical alert contact information, if you use such a service
- Plastic bags for trash, contaminated clothing and supplies
- Change of clothing for each member of the family
- A deck of cards, small non-electronic games or toys
- Hand warmers
Medical Review February 2017.