Cancer Care During Extreme Weather: Precautions and Considerations

Blizzard on the road.With winter upon us, it is important for cancer patients to be prepared in the case of severe weather. During severe weather, such as a blizzard, it may be difficult to get to Weill Cornell Medicine. All of our physician practices have coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so if you have any urgent questions or concerns, please call the regular number and you will be able to reach the on-call physician.

If you are due for an infusion or injection during an episode of severe weather, we can discuss the risks/benefits of finding a safe way to get to the treatment center vs. delaying treatment vs. finding an alternative temporary treatment center.

Storms can cause travel delays, especially on roads, so consider allowing for extra time and taking public transportation whenever possible. Drive slowly, and remember that injuring yourself in an accident may also impact your cancer care. It may also be an option for you to stay in a hotel near the hospital to avoid hazardous road conditions.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center is open to serve patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the event that the outpatient center is closed or unavailable due a natural disaster (which is rare), the emergency department will likely be open.

If you are uncertain about travel conditions, the emergency hotline is 212-746-WCMC (9262). Travel alerts for road conditions are released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). If you are having a medical emergency or need an ambulance, dial 212-472-2222 or 911.

For people undergoing cancer treatment, blizzards and cold winter weather can impact more than just the ability to travel to treatment. Patients are more susceptible to hypothermia since side effects of treatment can be dehydration, fatigue, and anemia. Patients undergoing or having previously received certain types of chemotherapy can experience extreme sensitivity to the cold. Other chemo patients can actually feel less sensitivity to the cold and a decreased sensation in the hands and feet. This may lead to a major problem because it puts you at risk for frostbite since you are unaware of how cold it really is. Also, patients with lower than normal amount of platelets in the blood, might result in more serious bruising or bleeding with an injury or fall.

It’s important that patients feel safe and prepared to “weather the storm” during severe weather, including a loss of power or blackout. When weather or other issues can be anticipated, make sure you have enough medication and food/supplies on hand.

In general, but especially after severe inclement weather, be sure to communicate with your physician and healthcare team if anything out of the ordinary happened. For example, close the communications loop if you ended up going somewhere else for treatment or ran out of medication. This way we can make sure we update your medical records.

Most importantly, trust your instincts and don’t panic in bad weather. Wishing everyone a very safe rest of winter!

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