General News

Back to School After Hurricane Irma

Posted on Sep 18, 2017

Dr. Patrick Mularoni

It seems as if the school year is starting all over again after Hurricane Irma and its aftermath closed most schools for the past 12 days. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital gives parents some tips to help get their kids overcome the stress and disruption created by the storm.

What are some of the issues that you are anticipating as the kids head back to school?

The first thing that parents need to do is de-brief about the hurricane itself to assure children that they are safe. As the hurricane passed, many of us were without power and became busy cleaning up and putting our lives back together. This didn’t leave much time to de-brief with our children. As children go back to school, they are likely to share stories with friends about their hurricane experience and this may increase stress and anxiety having to hear about the storm again. You may want to have a conversation over dinner to make sure that they understand what happened last week. As a parent of school-aged children, it is sometimes shocking for me to see how differently my first-grader will interpret a situation when compared to the way his older sisters perceive it. Although the hurricane damage could have been much worse following Irma, this was still a very stressful situation for most families and children react to that stress differently.

What are some of the signs that a child is feeling stressed?

The first would be irritability and anxiousness. If your child is acting differently, the best initial way to deal with this is to sit down and talk with them. The other area of concern is the headaches, which could be from stress but could also be from altered sleep patterns that have happened over the past two weeks. With the hurricane coming in the middle of the night and many families living without power after the storm passed, many children got out of their normal sleep pattern and are going to be exceptionally tired. This can lead to multiple problems including headaches. We see kids presenting with headaches at the beginning of the school year as they transition from a summer schedule to a school schedule. Headaches can have a bunch of different causes including illness, but two common problems are stress and poor sleep patterns, so it is important to get the kids on track with going to bed at a reasonable hour this week.

What physical dangers could the storm’s aftermath present?

Broken tree branches may still be caught up in trees. As a parent, you should warn children about this and if there are any broken braches caught up in trees around your house you need to make sure that kids aren’t playing in that area. Those dead braches are eventually going to fall and we need to make sure that kids aren’t around when they do.

Many of us moved furniture around and many kids spent more time indoors over the past week. If your child has a history of household allergies, this may have stirred things up for them and you should make sure that you have them back on their allergy medicine as allergies can make the day uncomfortable and can affect school performance.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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