From mold to snakes, bacteria and carbon monoxide poisoning, hurricanes can bring even more problems with them than water.
Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas this past August, bringing with it destruction and too much water for anyone’s taste. Hurricane Irma is now about to rage its way up the eastern coast of Florida. Evacuations are under way and fingers are crossed that everyone is doing what they can to stay safe.
If you happen to be in the area when a hurricane hits, or you have to wade through flood waters once you return home, there are some health hazards to be aware of.
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Of course there’s the obvious threat of drowning in rushing water. The Washington Post reports that just 2 feet of rapid flood water can sweep away an SUV, and 6 inches of rushing water is enough to knock an adult down. Respecting the power of the storm can keep you aware and on the lookout as you make your way.
Wear a life jacket if you can, and don’t take unnecessary risks.
But beyond that, what about what lies beneath the water, on top of it and in it? You can’t steer clear of all possible problems. Knowing they could be around though, can often be the first step in self protection.
Here are 8 health hazards you may encounter during and after a hurricane:
Snakes are wonderful creatures, but not when they’re circling my ankles, and maybe you feel the same. Experts say that storm activity always increases your chances of being bitten by a snake as the poor things get flooded out of their homes, just as we humans do.
Seeking higher ground, they may make their way into unexpected places in your home, car and elsewhere. Know the habits of poisonous snakes in your area, and where to seek help if you’re bitten.
2) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When the electricity goes out, like it can in any storm, one of the first things many people do is fire up the generator. You must make sure it’s operating in a well ventilated space, or else it will poison you with CO.
You won’t smell it, but you’ll breathe it in and die as a consequence.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, vomiting, feeling confused, trouble breathing, blurred vision and loss of consciousness. Here are some tips on how to operate a generator safely.
Just like snakes, insects are going to get creative in a flood as they try to survive. Many will drown but some, like these these fire ants can be found floating around in masses you don’t want to touch.
4) Hidden Pieces of Metal and Glass
You never know what you might be stepping on, when you’re wading in murky waters. Make sure you have some protective footwear on, as broken debris like glass and metal can be hard to detect underwater. Avoid cutting your feet and inviting infection.
5) Respiratory Infections
Shelters can be wonderful things during a disaster. The only problem is that once everyone gathers there, you now have all those with colds and chest infections sitting around in one enclosed area. It can be easy to catch a respiratory infection when staying in communal spaces. Wash your hands as often as you can.
6) Bacterial Infections
Water that’s sitting around in pools and puddles is an excellent breeding ground for pathogens. It can be hard to avoid having contact with it. The best you can do is have soap on hand, and boil your drinking water, if in doubt.
7) Extreme Heat
With the electricity out, it could mean no AC is running. Be prepared to sit through some extreme heat, and find out where you may be able to cool off, if needed.
One of the worst after-effects of flooding is mold. Damp buildings are an excellent place for it to grow and accumulate. If you’re experiencing breathing problems well after a storm, check out the CDC’s tips for cleaning up after a disaster.
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