Hurricanes can cause dangerous floods and other hazards such as downed power lines and shattered windows. In the chaos, young children are particularly vulnerable because they cannot protect themselves.
“Children are completely dependent on adults to make decisions for them and their well-being. This can be especially important when there’s a threat of immediate physical harm, like in the case of extreme weather events,” says Natasha DeJarnett, formerly of the National Environmental Health Association.*
She says very young children like to crawl on the ground and often put things in their mouths. So when floodwaters leave contamination and debris behind, children may come into contact with – and even ingest – hazardous substances or objects.
And kids’ physical health is not the only concern during extreme weather. Major storms can harm the mental health of children and their families by causing distress during the event, and anxiety or depression after.
“But what we know about storms and mental health is that the earlier one can evacuate, and the further they can get from the site of the disaster, the better mental health outcomes will be,” DeJarnett says.
*Editor’s note: After this story was distributed to radio stations, DeJarnett announced she was leaving her job at the National Environmental Health Association for a faculty position at the University of Louisville’s Envirome Institute.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.