August 19, 2020
The cancer patient’s hurricane checklist during COVID-19
BY MD Anderson Staff
Last updated Aug. 25, 2021
If you’ve ever prepared for a hurricane, you probably already know the basics. A flashlight, extra batteries, rain gear, medications, a first-aid kit and a 7-day supply of non-perishable food and water are just some of the essentials you might need during a severe storm and its aftermath.
But cancer patients should also have additional supplies on hand — especially during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That’s why it’s more important than ever to plan ahead.
“Cancer patients are often at greater risk of contracting an infection,” says Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D., associate medical director of Critical Care. “So, try to get everything you need early on, to avoid the last-minute crowds in stores. It’s almost impossible to maintain adequate social distancing in those situations. And that could prove to be more dangerous than the storm itself.”
Infection-fighting additions for your disaster kit
In addition to hurricane kit basics, cancer patients should also make sure they have an adequate supply of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
“Evacuation could pose a risk,” says Von-Maszewski. “Face masks will be especially important if patients have to stay in crowded shelters.” And, if you haven't already done so, get vaccinated against COVID-19 to reduce your risk of severe illness.
Flood water and other standing water can also pose an infection hazard. So, make sure your storm kit includes mosquito spray to guard against insect bites, and antibiotic cream and bandages to cover any open wounds.
Plan ahead for a hurricane during the COVID-19 pandemic
Many cancer patients take prescription drugs on a daily basis. So, plan ahead to make sure you have at least a two-week supply of your medications on-hand, and prepare a dedicated cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles for any that need to be kept refrigerated.
Make a list of all the medications you take and their dosages, and talk to your doctor about what to do if you have to miss a dose or treatment.
Find out where your nearest emergency room is and how to get there. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance company in advance to see which ones are covered by your policy.
Fill up your vehicle’s gas tank, too, in case you need to seek medical attention — or evacuate.
“These could be critical resources during a severe weather event, should you be unable to reach MD Anderson,” Von-Maszewski says.
Organize your medical information in one place
It’s possible you won’t immediately be able to travel to MD Anderson for any care you need, even after the threat of a severe storm has passed. You might be eligible for a virtual visit instead. But if you need to see a doctor who’s not familiar with your cancer history or treatment, it’s important to have all of your care information organized in one place. This includes:
- your diagnosis, including the type and stage of your cancer
- the type of treatment you’re currently receiving and the dosage, as well as when you started your current treatment and any treatments you had previously
- a list of any other medications you’re on, including any supplements
- allergies and immunizations
- your most recent lab work
“Lab results are especially important,” says Von-Maszewski.
The good news is that a lot of this information is available through your MD Anderson MyChart account, which you can access online or by downloading the MD Anderson mobile app.
But it’s also wise to keep hard copies of your medical records in a folder or binder, in case there’s a power outage or you aren’t able to charge your phone or computer. And, if you've gotten vaccinated against COVID-19, be sure to include your vaccination card in the folder or binder in case you need it.
Download the MD Anderson mobile app
During severe weather events, MD Anderson posts the latest updates on operations in MyChart, as well as on our website, Facebook and Twitter. Downloading the app enables easy access to MyChart in case you need to communicate with your care team or manage your appointments right before, during or after a weather event. You can also use it to request prescription refills, and access your test results, as well as educational resources.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Try to get everything you need early on to avoid crowds.
Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D.
Associate Medical Director, Critical Care