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Hurricane & Flood Health Concerns - Preparation and Effect of on Children & Teens

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  • Hurricane & Flood Health Concerns - Preparation and Effect of on Children & Teens

    Hurricane Health Tips: Stress, Children & Teens

    Stress Reactions

    Stress reactions are a natural response both before and after a hurricane. The ability of children and teens to cope with a disaster may vary depending upon their age. However, children who have been sufficiently prepared and whose parents handle the disaster well, generally will have less severe and more temporary reactions.
    Hurricane Readiness

    Talk with your children prior to hurricane season. Teach them some basic concepts about weather and its effects in terms they can understand. Use the television news or pictures in magazines as teaching tools. Explain that a hurricane is a difficult situation but that it can be handled. Never dismiss a question.
    Prepare children for the reality of a hurricane. Just as you would have a fire drill, have a similar drill for a hurricane. Make preparation plans which will be readily accepted.
    • Encourage children to listen and follow instructions.
    • Make plans of what you would do if a hurricane is eminent.
    • Go through steps for safety, show them the most protected areas of the house to wait out the storm, etc.
    • Have them make a list of the important items they want to pack for safekeeping.
    • Participation of children prior to the onset of a hurricane makes them feel less vulnerable and more confident.
    • Let them help you assemble an emergency kit, pack your important items or shop for hurricane provisions.
    • Have them pack their favorite clothes and toys in plastic bags to protect from water damage.
    • Give them their own flashlight.
    Coping Techniques

    Children naturally look to parents for reassurance; the more quickly it comes, the faster the emotional wounds heal.
    Recognize that small children may not be able to verbalize their fears and anxieties. When they are afraid, they are most fearful of being left alone. So include them in your activities following a hurricane. Do not leave them alone in an evacuation center while you go back to tend to the damage. This will help alleviate a "clinging" behavior. Plus, when they see you coping, they will adapt too.
    Listen continuously and reassure children who are afraid. Do not minimize or ignore their feelings. When they feel their parents are not understanding of their fear, children tend to feel ashamed, rejected, unloved and then even more afraid. Explain about the disaster in words they can understand. It?s okay to let them know you are afraid too. Sharing encourages children to talk about their own feelings. Remind them you are together and safe. Listen and answer their questions. You may need to do this over and over again. Show signs of reassurance by holding and touching them. Spend extra time with them at bedtime.
    Encourage children to talk. Provide an atmosphere of acceptance in which they feel free to express their anxieties. Include family, friends or other children in the discussions. Allow children to express themselves without fear of judgment or indication of expectations. Another way of talking, but silently, is to have children draw pictures of the events surrounding the hurricane. Ask them what the pictures are.
    Allow your children to mourn or grieve over a lost toy, a missing blanket and the loss of damage to your home.
    If you feel your child is having problems adjusting at home or at school, talk to the teacher so that you can work together on the problems.
    Take note that children may feel edgy when bad weather reoccurs. Do something enjoyable on those days to replace fear with pleasant memories.
    Get back to a routine as quickly as possible. This indicates to your children that you are maintaining control, another sign of coping. Implementing meal schedules, planning calming pre-bedtime activities and reinstating a specific time for going to bed will revitalize family structure and help provide a sense of security for your children.
    After the Hurricane

    Stress reactions may appear in your children days, weeks or even months after a hurricane strikes. You know your children best and will be aware of unusual or excessive changes in attitudes or behavior.
    Remember, these reactions and symptoms are normal after a disaster. Usually they will disappear slowly, without psychological assistance. If they last longer than two weeks or they are very intense, where a child seems to be having extended difficulties in handling everyday functions, professional help should be arranged. If you are financially unable to acquire professional help, crisis counseling is provided free of charge to disaster victims through the Departments of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS).
    Some of the most common signs and symptoms of stress in children are:
    Children 1-5
    • Regressive behavior such as thumb sucking, loss of bladder or bowel control, excessive crying, etc.
    • Persistent fears of being left alone, darkness, strangers, loud noises, weather, animals, etc.
    • Irritability
    • Confusion
    • Sadness
    • Immobility
    • Disobedience
    • Nightmares
    • Clinging
    Children 6-12
    • Regressive behavior: behaving in a manner they did when they were younger
    • Persistent fear about weather and safety
    • Irritability
    • Confusion
    • Headaches and other physical complaints
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Nightmares/sleep problems
    • Not wanting to attend school or poor performance in school
    • Depression
    • Withdrawal from peers
    • Fighting
    Teens 13-18
    • Significant behavior changes such as stealing, rebellion, refusal to do chores, aggression, etc.
    • Fear of storms
    • Confusion
    • Headaches and other physical complaints
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Poor performance in school or athletics
    • Withdrawal or isolation
    • Changes or loss of interest in friends and activities
    • Appetite disturbance
    • Apathy
    • Depression

    The Hurricane Health Tips series is provided to you as a public service by Jackson Health System and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
    We would like to acknowledge and thank Raquel E. Cohen, M.D., MPH, professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and director, The Children?s Center Office of the State Attorney, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, for her contribution to the information provided on this page.

  • #2
    Re: Hurricane & Flood Health Concerns - Preparation and Effect of on Children & Teens

    Two Sundays back at my church in the Children's Service we put together a children's emergency go bag, so each family could to put together one they felt safe and appropriate for each of their own children. Surprisingly almost all the suggestions came from the children and a few from the parents. The list below was a demonstration kit. It was a bright blue and yellow (easy to spot) knapsack with a favorite cartoon character on it. The following list are items from the kit or suggestions, believer it or not this can all fit in a second or third grader's knapsack:

    stuffed animals
    coloring book and coloring pencils (crayons can melt)
    story book
    games that require children to remain quiet and seated to play
    a working flash light
    glow sticks
    bottled water
    a space blanket
    a disposable rain poncho
    a change of clothes (extra socks)
    2 hotel bars of soap in a resealable plastic bag
    a pad and pencil for notes
    a pencil sharpener
    some money
    a whistle for emergency contact use only!
    disposable plastic ware and napkins in a plastic bag
    an age appropriate (parent approved) first aid kit

    For older children Band Aids, wound save, hand sanitizer
    N95 mask and swim goggles (a pandemic is also and emergency!)

    An emergency card for each child with the following information on it was also included:

    Child's legal name:
    Child's nick name:
    Date of birth:
    Home Address:

    Father's Name:
    Father's cell phone: Relationship: Phone:
    Mother's Name:
    Mother's cell phone:
    Home phone:

    Nearest relative in area:
    Relationship & Phone:
    Nearest relative out of area:
    Relationship & Phone:

    Blood type:
    Health issues:
    Doctor name & Phone:
    Dentist name & Phone:
    Prescription drugs:

    The back of the card had a picture of the child together with their family, with each family member identified by name.

    Another thing that was discussed during the service was what children could to "help" prepare for an emergency. These were some of the suggestions.

    Depending on the emergency and the appropriatness for the child, they could:
    Know and follow the families emergency plan
    Always be where their parents know where they are
    Stay together
    Check and pack their emergency go bag
    Check and pack emergency go bags for their pets.
    Help clean their rooms and pick up toys so that no one trips over them
    Help their parents put together an emergency plan
    Help their parents practice with emergency drills (for example fire drills)
    Make sure the flash lights work.

    Older children (if approved by parent) could have assigned responsibilities such as:
    For storms or bad weather:
    Bring in lighter yard furniture so it does not blow away
    Care for and help keep track of younger siblings
    Turn off light switches if the power goes off
    Help parents unplug electronics (TV/Computer) when safe to do so

    The suggestion of "Eat ice cream!" while very popular with the children was not seen to be of significant "help" by the parents.
    We were put on this earth to help and take care of one another.


    • #3
      Re: Hurricane & Flood Health Concerns - Preparation and Effect of on Children & Teens

      Up to 300,000 Children Affected by Back-to-Back Hurricanes in Haiti, says UNICEF

      <!-- start rss blurbPORT-AU-PRINCE, 6 September 2008 ? Flooding caused by rains that lashed Haiti after a recent series of back-to-back hurricanes has affected an estimated 650,000 people, of which 300,000 are children.end rss blurb --><!-- start body text -->PORT-AU-PRINCE, 6 September 2008 ? Flooding caused by rains that lashed Haiti after a recent series of back-to-back hurricanes has affected an estimated 650,000 people, of which 300,000 are children.

      The aftermath of Hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Hanna, which have passed through the region in close succession over the past three weeks, has forced thousands of people to flee to their rooftops, with many unable to return to their homes for days. Important bridges have been destroyed and landslides have rendered roads impassable throughout the country, making it difficult to get help to those in need. And the situation is further complicated by the risk of social and political unrest, in a country where a food crisis that led to violent riots in April remains unresolved.
      Life-saving water, food and supplies were rushed to Gonaives, the most affected city, on Friday in the only ways possible: by helicopter and by boat. The estimated 70,000 people taking refuge in shelters there will benefit from supplies of drinking water and food from UNICEF and WFP. Tarpaulins are also being provided by UNICEF to shelter affected families, as are water purification tablets and other crucial sanitation supplies to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases, which can be one of the biggest killers of children in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
      ?The initial push to provide aid to Gonaives is a start, but there is a great deal more to be done to help children and families that have been affected by the storms throughout the entire country,? says Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
      UNICEF has mobilised over US$ 1 million to respond to the immediate needs of those affected, and a Flash Appeal for funds to aid in the response will be launched in the coming days by all UN agencies in Haiti. The European Commission?s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) has pledged 300,000 Euros to date to support UNICEF in its response to the crisis. Additional supplies, including family hygiene kits, blankets and oral rehydration salts, are on the way to Haiti to provide relief to victims of the storms throughout the country.
      Nearby Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica have also been hit by the recent storms and UNICEF is providing relief supplies to affected families and assessing future needs.
      About UNICEF
      UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world?s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
      For further information, please contact:
      Annamaria Laurini, Representative, UNICEF Haiti
      Telephone: +509 2245-3525, Email:
      Louis-Etienne Vigneault-D., Communication Officer, UNICEF Haiti
      Mobile: +509 3463 0056, Email:
      Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York, Tel: +2 12 326 7452,
      Tamar Hahn, Regional Communication Advisor, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
      Mobile: +507 6780 9075, Email: