Ochsner Offers Tips For Reducing Anxiety, Remaining Healthy And Advice For Expectant Mothers During And After A Storm

NEW ORLEANS – As Southeast Louisiana residents await the eastern edge of Hurricane Harvey, stress and anxiety levels and tension are understandably on the rise.
         “Being aware of your anxiety levels is the first step in getting a healthy perspective on the situation,” says Dr. Dean Hickman, chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Ochsner Medical Center. “By managing your anxiety, you will, in turn, help your family to manage their own.”
         Calm, supportive reactions from parents regarding evacuations/crises, will go a long way to alleviate stress responses in children.
         Hickman offers the following advice for reducing “natural disaster stress” amongst loved ones:
• Keep it simple: the most important things are food, shelter and loved ones.
• Try not to listen to the radio or TV on a non-stop basis: this can be overwhelming and anxiety-provoking especially for young children.
• Have a plan: children will feel prepared and relieved if they feel the adults in their lives have taken reasonable precautions to protect them from harm.
• Take care of yourself: get as much sleep as possible, stay fueled up by eating small meals frequently, limit caffeine intake and avoid nicotine and alcohol.
• Don’t feed the frenzy by thinking about “what if” scenarios or conversations.
• Try to “let your anxiety go.” Turn on soft music, watch a funny video or meditate.
         Residents may feel the effect of this stress for several weeks, which may include the following reactions:
• Emotional: shock, fear, grief, anger, guilt, shame, hopelessness, numbness or empty.
• Cognitive: confusion, disorientation, indecisiveness, worry, shortened attention span, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, unwanted memories, self-blame.
• Physical: tension, fatigue, edginess, insomnia, racing heartbeat, nausea, and change in appetite.
• Interpersonal: distrust, conflict, withdrawal, work/school problems, irritability, loss of intimacy, overly controlling, and feeling abandoned.
         “Many of these symptoms are completely normal,” says Hickman.
         As residents look at any rainfall damage from Hurricane Harvey, physicians at Ochsner Health System are advising everyone to be extremely cautious as they begin the clean up process.
         Joseph Guarisco, MD, chief of emergency services, Ochsner Health System, shares tips to prevent unnecessary injuries:
Post-storm clean-up
         “There are dangers everywhere that weren’t there a few days ago,” warns Dr. Guarisco. “Wear protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. In order to protect your skin from scrapes, this clothing should be of substantial weight. This can prevent lacerations from branches and sharp objects.”
         Use safety goggles, gloves, masks, hats, cut-resistant legwear and boots that cover the ankles when moving debris or cutting down branches and trees. Always wear socks and closed-toe shoes – never wear sandals or go barefoot.
         Be aware that the most serious and most frequent injuries are hand injuries related to use of chain saws and eye injuries from contact with downed tree branches. Slips and falls are another common source of injuries as well as back problems from lifting heavy objects.
         Inside the home, be careful about mixing household cleaners and disinfectants like bleach products, as combining certain types of products can produce toxic fumes and result in injury or death.
         Dr. Guarisco recommends having a First Aid kit available with supplies that include:
• Several gallons of clean water/soap for hand washing and cleansing any injuries
• Paper towels
• Clean cloth towels that can be used to wrap an injured body part
• Alcohol-based products for hand washing if you run out of water
         If an injury occurs, apply direct pressure over areas of bleeding and seek medical care. If heavy bleeding occurs go to the nearest ER or call 911.
Chemical burn treatment
         If you come in contact with a chemical, remove the potential cause as soon as possible.
         “Read instructions to see if water should be used,” advises Dr. Guarisco. “Then flush the chemicals off of the skin (20 minutes is ideal). Do not use soaps, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or iodine which can make the wound worse.”
         Remember to remove any clothing that has been in contact with the chemical, including jewelry. Dress the wound with gauze moistened with clean water and do not allow the area to “dry out.” If the area continues to burn, rinse the wound again and re-dress as stated above. If blisters develop, see a physician as soon as possible.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning
         Generators, grills, camp stoves or gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage or camper – even outside near an open window. Every home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector that runs on batteries.
         Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
• Headache
• Dizziness
• Weakness
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Chest pain
• Confusion
         If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, consult a healthcare professional immediately.
Electrical hazards
         If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
         Dr. Guarisco cautions against entering flooded areas or touching electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are certain that the power is off. Additionally, never touch a downed power line.
         When using gasoline and diesel generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the off position prior to starting the generator.
         If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines. Extreme caution is necessary when moving ladders and other equipment near overhead power lines to avoid inadvertent contact.
Be Prepared for Fires
         Fire can pose a major threat to an already badly damaged flood area because of inoperable fire-protection and firefighting water supply systems, hampered fire department response and flood-damaged fire-protection systems.
         To protect yourself against fires after a natural disaster, keep at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
         With hurricane season upon us, pregnant women and their families need to take extra precautions to ensure that things go smoothly, whether evacuating or staying. Making preparations now can spare a new mother from unnecessary worry during power outages and storm recovery later.
         Dr. Veronica Gillispie, from Ochsner Baptist has tips for expecting mothers:
• Plan an alternate birth location in the event of road problems or evacuation.
• If it’s close to your delivery date or if you are considered high-risk, communicate with your healthcare provider’s office to let them know where you will be. Discuss whether it is safe for you to leave prior to the storm.
• If you are evacuating and late in pregnancy, have a copy of your prenatal care record and immunizations and bring your birth bag.
• Have phone numbers and locations for local obstetricians and midwives in the event you cannot reach your regular provider during evacuation. You can go to acog.org and find an OB/ GYN in other areas of the state or country.
• Hurricanes do not directly cause labor to happen. Labor is expected anytime between 37 and 42 weeks and should be planned for accordingly.
• Create a family communication action plan so everyone is clear of what needs to take place before and during evacuation.
• If you seek help at a shelter, immediately notify them of your pregnancy and get information about the location of hospitals in the area.
• Bring with you any medications, including prenatal vitamins and prescriptions – enough to last about two weeks in case you choose or have to relocate during a storm.
• Do all you can to reduce stress – stress is a major factor in preterm labor. Early preparation and planning will help reduce stress levels.
• Flood waters after a storm may carry all forms of infectious agents and toxic chemicals, which can harm both mom and baby. If you are in a flood-prone area, it’s probably a good idea to again fall back on your plan and evacuate so you avoid being put in that situation.
• Learn the signs of preterm labor and contact help as soon as possible if you experience any of the following:
         Contractions every 10 minutes or more
         Leaking vaginal fluid or bleeding
         Feeling that baby is pushing down
         Low, dull backache
         Abdominal cramps
Feeding your baby:
• Create a food hurricane kit for the entire family that can either be used at home or during a car ride to safer ground.
• Make sure mom has enough high-protein snacks and clean water to drink to prevent dehydration
• For babies less than 6 months old, breast milk is the sole source of recommended nutrition. Breastfeeding is always available and sterile.
• Pack a battery operated quality pump or hand pump, clean storage bottles or bags, and a method of freezing or cold storage
• Pumped milk will last about eight days refrigerated; previously frozen milk will last about 24 hours in the fridge.
• Pack at least three full days and nights worth of pre-washed bottles, nipples and formula.
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