Once the storm is over, do you know what to do next?
If you have been through a hurricane, flood or other severe weather event, we hope you and your loved ones came through unscathed, and with minimal property damage. We know not everyone has been so lucky. Health may seem a luxury, compared with the realities of losing a home, precious possessions, food shortages, and contaminated water. Survival takes priority for a time.
But what about after that, when the severe threat has passed? What might you want to think about? Here are four things:
1. What to do with all that emergency food? Unless it’s needed, don’t indulge in all of the processed and packaged food you purchased in order to prepare. Return it, donate it to those in need, or hide them away for the next storm.
2. Think about mold. If you have water damage, mold is very likely. Mold can cause problems, not just due to mold allergy or hypersensitivity, but also due to toxins produced by the mold itself. For example, airborne mold and toxin particles can cause immune stimulation and dysregulation.
The presence of mold can be evaluated as follows:
- Step 1 evaluation: Mold plates available from Home Depot or Lowes (e.g. Mold Armor). Check expiry dates. If negative, continue with Step 2 evaluation.
- Step 2 evaluation: Examinair Professional Allergen & Mold Test from My Healthy Home
- Step 3 evaluation (recommended only if a deeper investigation is needed):
- Mycometrics Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (EMRI) Analysis: https://www.mycometrics.com/index.html
- MVOC for mold from My Healthy Home(detects mold compounds when mold is not visible, e.g. behind drywall)
We also like this review of storm-related mold strategies from our colleague, Dr. Jill Carnahan, click here.
3. Address stress. Hurricanes or floods can create traumatic stress. As much as you can, take care of yourself by eating well, hydrating, getting enough sleep and getting exercise. The American Psychological Association also shares these tips:
- Recognize the challenge you have faced but understand that it is one you will be able to work to manage
- Make space to mourn any losses you have experienced
- Take a break from watching the news; it’s designed to raise your excitement (and stress) level
- Lean on people who care about you for support
- Express your feelings, when you’re ready, in a way that you feel most comfortable with
- Avoid alcohol or drugs since they’ll add to depression and decrease your resilience to stress
- Try to re-establish routines, even if it’s just eating at regular times
- Put a hold on any major life decisions that might add to your stress (if you can)
4. Nurture community. Difficult times often bring communities closer together as individuals work to help and support each other. Don’t let that slip away after the danger has passed. Nurture your community relationships and stay connected with one another – research shows this has beneficial effects on your health.
We realize that many are still living in survival mode, and for those, it won’t yet be appropriate to think of what’s beyond. But for those who can, it is a good way to get back to healthy living.
Interested in donating to hurricane relief efforts? This is a great resource for identifying where to donate.
Great article from NPR about being in college during Hurricane Harvey. Read it here.