Tips for Health protection during natural disasters

You can protect your health from climate emergencies by taking basic precautions.

People everywhere face an escalating threat from climate change. Climate change is already affecting those we treat – as emergency medicine physicians in Australia and the United States.
We’ll see you soon, right? I hope not. Floods, fires, and extreme weather are all climate-related emergencies. All of us can take proactive steps to protect our health. What you need to know.

Health impacts of climate change?

Infectious diseases caused by flooding and changing biomes that prompt ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests to relocate as the planet warms are increasing the number of emergency medical care visits for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
In addition to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, air pollution and infectious diseases caused by flooding and shifting biomes prompt ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests to relocate. Therefore, people are seeking emergency medical care as the planet warms. Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and floods frequently cause physical and emotional trauma.
Extreme weather events dispense people from their homes and communities. Patients suddenly lose access to their usual medical team and pharmacies. People who are homeless, those with complex medical conditions, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, minoritized groups, and those who live in poor communities are often hard hit by extreme weather.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, fatigue, and nausea—all signs of heat exhaustion on a recent 110° Fahrenheit day. Public health warnings do not reduce the risk of illness during extreme weather. Access to shelter, transportation, and other societal factors that lead to poor health outcomes must be addressed.

Safety and health issues are exacerbated by extreme weather.

It is increasingly difficult to access medical care due to climate-related extreme weather. The electrical grid can be damaged by severe weather, preventing those relying on home medical equipment from using it. Dialysis centers and emergency rooms may close, or care may be slowed in those that remain open.
Fire or hurricane survivors may have difficulty getting medical care or obtaining much-needed medicines, such as insulin, dialysis, high blood pressure treatments, and heart medicines. People with chronic conditions, such as heart failure, lung disease, and kidney disease, can suffer worsening effects from these factors.

What can you do to protect your health?

As climate change threatens our communities and ourselves, each has a role. Here are some steps.

  • A printed summary listing all medical conditions, medications, dosages, and contact information is handy. 
  • Bring all medications with you if you have to leave home – even empty pill bottles will make it easier for your doctor to restart your medicines.
  • Medicines should be stored in waterproof bags so they can be found easily. In case of an emergency, this will help.

Prepare for an emergency. Plan your essential emergency response now:

  • Evacuate where?
  • Where will you end up?
  • If there was no electricity or phone service, how would you communicate? 
  • Do you have written contact information for family and friends if you lose your phone or the battery dies?

Finally, we should all look out for each other. Ensure your elderly neighbors and those around you who may be socially disconnected are safe. This is especially true when the weather turns hot, cold, smoky, fiery, snowy, wet, or windy.
It’s climate change. People around the world are already experiencing tangible and significant effects. Climate-related extreme weather is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and we must prepare for the threats it poses now and in the future. We all have a role to play in visiting healthy and safe – health professionals, communities, and individuals.

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