By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Hurricanes can be especially frightening for children because they don’t know exactly what is happening. Preparing for a hurricane often involves a lot of work for adults, and children are left feeling helpless and afraid. Keeping them informed of what is happening and making them part of the preparation can help to ease their fears.

Preparing your family for a hurricane is extremely important. If you develop a plan that each member of your family knows, then it will reduce stress for both you and your child. Contact the local emergency management office or Red Cross chapter for information on how to create a disaster plan.

• Have each family member pack an overnight bag in case you are told to evacuate or in case the storm damages your home and you have to leave afterward. Keep all of your bags together or have them ready to go in the car so that you will be ready to leave if ordered to evacuate.
• Pack soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, contact lens solution, etc. Sample sizes are convenient to keep on hand and they save a lot of room. Make sure that you have extra diapers, sanitary supplies and a roll of toilet paper.
• Pack important papers, such as birth certificates.
• Plan where you will go in case you have to evacuate. If you have out-of-state relatives, call them to make sure that you can stay with them until it is safe to return home.
• Have cash on hand at home. If the power goes out, ATM machines will not work and banks will be closed.
• Make sure that your car’s gas tank is full.
• Keep any necessary medication on hand, as well as a first aid kit. The first aid kit should include items such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, sinus or allergy medication, bandages, adhesive tape, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial ointment, cotton balls, cotton swabs and anything else that you feel you may need for first aid.
• Plan ahead, stock drinkable water and nonperishable foods in case you are not evacuated or you return and there is no electricity.
• Make sure that you have batteries, flashlights and a battery-powered radio.
• If you do not have storm shutters, board your windows with plywood. Taping the windows does not prevent them from breaking.
• Bring in all outside furniture, toys and any other loose items that may be in your yard.
• If you do not have to evacuate, stay indoors at all times during the storm. Don’t be fooled if the wind dies down, because it could be the eye of the storm and the wind will pick up again.
• Avoid using the phone unless there is an emergency so that phone lines are open.
• If you do evacuate, do not go home until officials say that you can – emergency workers need the roads to be clear.
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How you react to an emergency gives children an example of how to act. If you remain calm, your child will feel less anxious about the storm.

Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children’s special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.