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Hurricane season: Prepare now or stress out later

The Atlantic hurricane season starts Friday. Although storms usually don't pose a big problem early in the summer, now is the time to get your medical tool kit together, particularly if you have special health care needs. You don't want to be dealing with mail-order prescriptions or replacing health insurance cards when the big one is headed our way.

Special needs shelters

If you use oxygen, have a medical condition dependent on electricity, need assistance managing a medical condition or are disabled, call your county emergency management center now to reserve a space in a special needs shelter.

"That helps us plan for cots, meals and staffing at shelters. The more information we have in advance, the better," said Ryan Pedigo, public health preparedness director for the Hillsborough County Health Department.

• In Pinellas, you can register online at or call (727) 464-3800.

• In Hillsborough, go to or call (813) 307-8015, ext. 4406.

• In Pasco, call (727) 847-8137 or go to

• In Hernando, go to or call (352) 754-4083.

Food and water

• Bottled water: a gallon per person per day for at least three days.

• Can/bottle opener.

• Shelf-stable food, three-day supply.

• Refrigerator/freezer thermometer. Cold food that rises above 40 degrees must be discarded after two hours. This includes perishables such as milk, eggs, meats and leftovers.

• Cleaning products.

• Bleach.

• Heavy-duty plastic trash bags in case garbage collection is interrupted.

• Watertight plastic storage containers, some for food.

• Large coolers.

• Household bug spray.

Prescriptions and medical devices

Think carefully about all of the drugs and other items you need to manage your health. Here's a checklist to start; ask your doctor for more guidance:

• Two-week supply of all prescription medications.

• Separate list of all prescription medications with dose, schedule, doctors' names, doctors' phone numbers and pharmacy phone numbers stored in a zip-top plastic bag.

• Small cooler and cold packs for medication that requires refrigeration.

• Extra plastic zip-top bags to keep everything dry.

• Two-week supply of all that's required to manage diabetes, asthma, COPD and other chronic health conditions, including wires, cables, tubing, chargers, adaptors and nebulizers.

• Mobility equipment such as a wheelchair, a walker or a cane. If you're using a motorized scooter, have a regular wheelchair available in case batteries can't be recharged.

First aid supplies

Cuts, rashes, bug bites and stomach ailments are common in the aftermath of a storm. Take this list along as you shop for your hurricane supplies:

• Nonprescription pain medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin.

• Antihistamines to cope with allergic reactions.

• Antidiarrhea medication.

• Medication for upset stomach and acid reflux.

• Adhesive bandages, precut bandages, medical tape.

• Cotton balls.

• Alcohol, alcohol wipes and peroxide for disinfecting wounds.

• Antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin.

• Antiseptic spray for sunburn, cuts, scrapes or insect bites.

• Scissors.

• Antibacterial hand soap.

• Alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Disposable cold packs for strains and sprains.

• First-aid manual.

• Waterproof plastic storage bin to hold these items.

Personal and pet items

Think of all of the little things your family uses every day, and think how much you'd miss them if you had to evacuate:

• Baby supplies such as formula, bottles, medication, shelf-stable food, diapers, powder, lotion, baby wipes and pacifiers.

• Your regular vitamins and supplements.

• Contact lens solution and extra disposable lenses.

• Spare eyeglasses and sunglasses.

• Insect repellent.

• Sunscreen.

• Lip balm with SPF.

• Disposable gloves and rubber gloves for heavy-duty cleaning.

• Paper towels.

• Wash basin.

• Tampons, sanitary napkins.

• Pet medications, bedding and food. Look now for a place that accepts pets — many shelters do not.

Health-related paperwork

• Medical records (including living will, health care surrogacy).

• Insurance policies.

• Health insurance cards.


Comfort items you may want to take to a shelter:

• Folding lounge-style beach chairs (in case there's a shortage of cots), pillows, blankets, towels.

• Games, playing cards, battery-operated book light.

• Eye mask and earplugs.

• Battery operated MP-3 player or radio with earbuds.

Stress control

A solid hurricane plan and supply kit will give you a sense of control that may help alleviate stress. That's crucial to help manage conditions such as high blood pressure and autoimmune diseases. More tips we've learned over the years:

• Always keep to your medication schedule, and do your best to get adequate hydration, nutrition and exercise.

• Don't overdo the alcohol; it will only add to your stress and dehydration.

• Learn stress relief techniques now, such as deep breathing, yoga and tai chi. Pack a simple how-to brochure in your hurricane kit as a reminder.

• Try to see an upcoming storm as a challenge for which you are prepared, not a threat.

• Stay informed of developments, but turn off the TV if those swirls on the weather maps upset you.

Hurricane season: Prepare now or stress out later 05/30/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 31, 2012 3:06pm]
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