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Preparing your Children for Hurricane Season

Posted on Sep 06, 2017

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.

Hurricane season is here and we need to start preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., medical director and director of Clinical Experiences for Physicians in Training at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides some tips about disaster preparedness for families with children.

With hurricane season in full swing, what should parents and families do to prepare?

In Florida we are no strangers to natural disasters, this is an important topic to discuss.

The most important thing for families is to HAVE A PLAN—think about emergency kits and evacuation plans—where will the family go for shelter? Are pets allowed?

For instance, make sure you have plenty of things like formula, diapers and toys or activities to distract young ones and a first aid kit. First aid kits are great for all emergencies big and small.

And remember sometimes we may be without electricity for an extended period of time. So having water, non-perishable food and plenty of batteries are a must.

What about for children with medical problems?

Make sure you have medications and any medical supplies your child might need.

It’s also a good idea to have a summary of your child’s medical history and a list of medications and even a copy of their immunization record just in case. After Hurricane Katrina, children evacuated to other states and had to restart vaccinations because parents didn’t think to evacuate with records.

If your child depends on technology such as a ventilator, oxygen or even a nebulizer machine for asthma that requires electricity, think about where you will go to evacuate. Our local health departments will register families that require a special needs shelter ahead of time so it’s a good idea to inquire sooner rather than later.

Evacuations. How do you explain to kids what is happening?

It’s important to be honest with children and explain what is going on. Focus the level of detail on what’s OK for your child’s age  

And while tuning into the news is obviously important for adults to get information about the disaster, 24/7 coverage may be too much for kids and teens—leading to unnecessary anxiety.

How else can you keep children calm during a natural disaster?

Empower kids! Get them involved in the plan—have them help make emergency kit or gather and test supplies like flashlights. Teach them emergency numbers including names, phone numbers of a relative that does not live in the home.

The most important thing is for the adult to stay calm because children pick up on parents’ fear and anxiety.

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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