Two weeks ago today, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and left a massive wake of destruction in her path. As hard as it is to believe, some people are still without power after 14 days, and still trying to figure out how to survive without heat or hot food. Sadly, those are the lucky ones, as many lost everything when storm surges topped out at 14 feet. Those who were able to preserve some semblance of a home are now dealing with the aftermath of cleaning up badly damaged floors, walls, carpets, and more.
All that water surging into a home can create numerous health hazards. Mold-which produces allergy-like symptoms at best and can be downright deadly at worst- loves a moist environment. The raw sewage that gushes through a home and neighborhood during the storm surge can bring bacteria and other nasty illnesses. From gastrointestinal parasites to colds and other infections, staying healthy in the aftermath of Sandy requires diligence and very careful cleaning.
Tips for Staying Healthy in the Aftermath of Sandy
- Deal with mold right away. Before you can safely move back into your home, you need to make sure that there is no mold or moisture that can breed the fungus. If your home sustained minor damage, you may be able to do the cleanup yourself. A wet/dry vacuum can help suck up moisture from carpets. Major damage, however, is best handled by professionals. Your insurance may cover their services, so check into that. Remain diligent, even if you think your house is safe. Mold can take months to develop, and unseen areas, like inside your walls or under your carpet, can still contain enough moisture to act as a breeding ground.
- Watch children closely. While you most likely well know enough to not pick things up from flood water and put it in your mouth, your young children may not. Raw sewage that is brought onto shore from storm surges are among the top causes of health problems during the aftermath of Sandy and other storms. Even after the waters recede, puddles and other smaller bodies of water remain contaminated.
- Wash your hands frequently. Even touching a contaminated object or surface and later putting that hand to your face or mouth can cause illness. While washing your hands frequently is always good practice, it is especially important in the aftermath of Sandy or other disasters.
- Make sure your water is safe.Of course, washing your hands does no good if you use contaminated water, so be sure your area’s water supply is safe to use for drinking and cleaning yourself. If it’s not, be sure to boil it before using, or invest in some inexpensive bottled water.
- Don’t overdo it with DIY home repairs.While it’s tempting to fix as much as you can on your own to save money, especially if you’re tapped out from staying in hotels or trying to keep a generator running, home repairs are actually one of the top health dangers in the aftermath of Sandy and other disasters. If you don’t know how to fix it without getting hurt, don’t try. Falling off a ladder or smashing your fingers with a hammer isn’t going to an already horrible situation, and the hospital bills involved definitely won’t help you save money!
The best thing you can do to keep healthy in the aftermath of Sandy is use common sense and listen to advisories from health agencies. Don’t eat or drink anything unless you’re sure it’s safe, and keep a close eye on those who are most susceptible to illness or injury, such as children and the elderly.