Asthma Coalition of Long Island Joins Lung Association to Offer Advice on Protecting Lung Health in Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

(November 30, 2012)

As the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy continues, the Asthma Coalition of Long Island and the American Lung Association of the Northeast are reminding residents of affected areas on Long Island to keep their lung health in mind when cleaning up from the storm and coping with the displacement caused by home evacuations and widespread power outages. Flood waters and water damage from the storm pose special problems for the thousands of people with existing lung disease and may increase the likelihood of developing lung disease.

 

“With the power and fury of Hurricane Sandy and now the aftermath, there will be changes to both indoor and outdoor air quality, said Mary Cataletto, MD, Chair of the Asthma Coalition of Long Island.  “If you or anyone in your family is experiencing increased coughing or breathing problems please don't delay, contact your health care provider right away.” 

 

"As Long Islanders return to their homes and begin to rebuild, it’s very important for those with lung disease to closely monitor symptoms," said American Lung Association of the Northeast CEO, Jeff Seyler. "Damp buildings and furnishings promote the growth of microorganisms, dust mites, cockroaches and mold, which can aggravate asthma and allergies and cause breathing problems in susceptible persons. Breathing problems can develop or be further exacerbated if proper precautions are not taken during the cleanup process itself, so it’s important to be aware of what could be harmful."

 

The Asthma Coalition and Lung Association cautioned that as families are tackling the tasks of home recovery and/or possible relocation, they are also facing new potential asthma triggers in these temporary, damaged and sometimes overcrowded living situations. In addition to the risks associated with mold, cold temperatures, bacteria, cleaning products and alternative heating sources, there is also the possibility that the force of the hurricane has whipped up pollen and tree debris that will remain in communities for quite some time.  This too can trigger asthma and breathing problems and exacerbate them in those who are already suffering. 

 

The Asthma Coalition of Long Island has worked directly with the affected communities in Long Beach to assist its residents who suffer from asthma. "Following the devastation to Long Beach Schools and our health offices, we called the Asthma Coalition of Long Island to see if they could help replace the massive amount of supplies that were lost. Within a week, we received a large shipment of asthma supplies and devices to help children manage their asthma and important information to help families with new potential asthma triggers," said Barbara Young, RN, and District Nurse Liaison, Long Beach Public Schools.  "The Asthma Coalition of Long Island and Long Beach Schools have a long history of working with families to help children learn to control their asthma."

 

The Lung Association offers tips to keep in mind in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  The Asthma Coalition of Long Island also has information on flood cleanup and environmental triggers at www.asthmacoalitionoflongisland.org

 

For those cleaning up:

•              When in doubt, toss it out! Remove everything that has been soaked by water, including clothing, papers, furnishings, carpet, ceiling tiles, and wallboard. Anything that cannot be cleaned and dried must be discarded.

•              Use water and detergent to scrub mold off hard surfaces, like tile and concrete. Avoid using bleach to clean damaged materials, especially in indoor areas that are not well ventilated. Indoor exposure to irritant vapors from bleach can also compromise lung health and make it hard to breathe.

•              Protect occupants and workers during the cleanup process. At minimum, wear an N-95 mask (available at hardware stores), disposable gloves and goggles.

•              Avoid using air cleaning devices that emit ozone. Ozone has not been found to clean indoor air or to solve mold problems and ozone can harm lung health, especially for children, the elderly, and people with asthma and chronic lung diseases.

Special advice for those with lung disease:

•              Be vigilant about taking prescribed medications.

•              Seek medical help promptly if you are having trouble breathing.

•              If you are in an area where there is smoke or debris being burned, stay indoors with your windows shut.

 

The Lung Association is reminding those with lung disease who are having trouble breathing – and anyone who is having trouble breathing - to get medical help. People with lung disease who’ve lost their medicine or can’t remember what medications they are supposed to be taking should also seek medical advice.

 

Long Island residents should be aware that it is not uncommon for people to develop lung problems after a disaster such as Sandy, even if they've never had problems before. People are advised to be aware of any breathing problems that may arise and pay close attention to family members, especially children and seniors.

 

Some warning signs to watch out for include:

•              Coughing, especially at night

•              Wheezing or feeling short of breath

•              Chest tightness or pain

•              Seek immediate emergency medical care if fingernails or lips are turning blue or if there is severe chest pain. Both could be life-threatening.

 

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT STAYING SAFE AND HEALTHY FOLLOWING HURRICANE SANDY

 

ADDITIONAL HURRICANE AND FLOODING RESOURCES

 

The Lung Association operates a free Lung HelpLine (1-800-586-4872) that can provide callers with more information on cleaning up after a flood or water damage and answer questions about preventing mold growth and its proper removal. The HelpLine is staffed with registered nurses and registered respiratory therapists who stand ready to assist callers who have questions about their lung health.