Health Team

Storm cleanup can lead to injuries

Posted April 22, 2011 12:23 p.m. EDT

We spoke with WakeMed to get a sampling of injuries associated with last Saturday's tornado. On the WakeMed campuses, they saw 49 injuries, with 47 visits in the first two days and two on Tuesday. There were a variety of injuries, including lacerations, abrasions, contusions, sprains, broken bones, blunt trauma and head injuries.

One study I read regarding tornado-related injuries estimated that 50 percent of all incidents occur during the rescue and post-tornado cleanup period. Approximately one-third of those injuries were nail puncture wounds. The most common reason for hospitalization was broken bones. The most common cause of death was head injuries.

It seems our community has done a good job at staying safe in the aftermath of this tornado. Most of us are not professionals at the cleanup process and must be diligent to stay safe. Here are some tips I might offer:

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots during the cleanup process. Beware of nails, and if you do step on one, be sure to get medical attention. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Your doctor will examine the wound to see if any debris, such as shoe sole material, was propelled into the wound. Ideally, you should get a tetanus booster within 72 hours if you have not had one in 10 years. If it is a dirty wound like a rusty nail or chainsaw accident, you may need a booster within the last five years. In some instances of a contaminated wound, tetanus immune globulin may be indicated. Of course, we worry about all sorts of infections, and antibiotics may be indicated by mouth or intravenously. Tetanus infections are rare in the United States. It is estimated that we see less than 10 significant cases per year. Other infections are common, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants to guard against cuts and scrapes. This will also give you added protection against allergens like poison ivy and insects like ticks, which are prevalent this time of the year.
  • Wear protective eye goggles if you are using power tools like chain saws. Eye injuries are dangerous and painful. Be careful with ladders and secure them carefully. Stay off of roofs if you have no experience there. Be careful when driving through areas where stoplights are not functioning.
  • Be careful to keep well hydrated and don't get exhausted. Take your baseline medicines on a regular basis if you have diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Leave the strenuous work to others if you have diseases like coronary artery disease or other active medical problems.
  • Get counseling for you or your children if you have having problems coping with the stresses of this tragedy. It is common to have appetite or sleep problems for a couple of weeks after this type of disaster, If your problem lasts longer than this, see your private physician.

It is estimated that more than 1,000 tornadoes take place in United States each year, mostly in March, April and May. An important part of our safely regimen has to be practicing storm drills in our homes, schools and businesses to be even better prepared in the future.