During a natural disaster, not having your medications or assistive devices adds to physical and emotional stress, which can trigger arthritis flares and leave you vulnerable to injury and infection.
“High stress levels make rheumatic conditions worse; having an established emergency plan can only reduce stress,” says Jennifer Hootman, PhD, an epidemiologist in the Arthritis Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. Registered nurse Victoria Ruffing, director of nursing and patient education at the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in Baltimore, MD, also stresses the need to have a plan for your medications – and awareness of the potential dangers for people with arthritis of the storm’s aftermath.
“Contaminated water, debris, and other post-hurricane conditions mean environments are ripe for infection and injury,” she says. “People should be on the alert for these and, if they pick up a bacterial or viral infection or have a wound that’s not healing well, they should seek medical care as soon as possible. This will probably mean going to an emergency department, but they should not put off seeking care – in disaster conditions medical problems can get worse very quickly.”