Winter is coming…probably

After what feels like endless rain, meteorologists are predicting a possibility of snow early next week. The forecast is too uncertain to place any wagers on snow, but we’ve got a window of time to get ready for whatever happens. Even small amounts of snow can wreak havoc on our ability to get around and that can have implications for your health, especially if you have medical conditions that require regular healthcare services and supplies.

Snow, road closures, and your health

When snow closes roads, it’s hard for people to get to their medical appointments or get crucial medical supplies. Snow and ice can also sometimes result in downed tree limbs that take out electricity, affecting those who need electricity for the medical equipment. Moments like this, at the first suggestion of snow, are opportune for planning ahead for medical needs.

Things to consider if you depend on:

  • Oxygen tanks, medication prescriptions, or other medical supplies: Plan with your doctor, pharmacist, or medical service provider about what to do if they can’t be delivered or if you can’t get to the pharmacy. Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if you can have a 3-day emergency supply.
  • Medical equipment powered by electricity (beds, breathing equipment or infusion pumps ): Check with your medical supply company and get information regarding a back-up power source such as a battery or generator.
  • Intravenous and feeding tube equipment: Know if your infusion pump has battery back-up, and how long it would last in an emergency. Ask your home care provider about manual infusion techniques in case of a power outage.
  • Dialysis:
    • Make back-up arrangements for transportation, such as asking a friend with an all-wheel drive vehicle to help you get to your dialysis appointment.
    • Get information about other dialysis facilities in your area. Find out if they provide the type of treatment you need.
    • Contact the facility to be sure they can treat you if an emergency occurs and you cannot use your regular facility.
    • Know what diet to follow if your dialysis must be delayed.

Keep up on the weather

Of course, local news teams will be out in full force if there’s snow, their Doppler radars shivering with excitement. You can also get detailed weather information from the National Weather Service and local information about weather impacts from the King County Emergency News blog. To get emergency information delivered directly to your email or phone, sign up for Alert King County or Alert Seattle.

Please check on neighbors and loved ones if you think they might lose power or have trouble getting around, especially if they are elderly or have medical needs. Stay safe and warm!

Originally published January 8, 2020.

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.

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