Caring for Children During & After a Disaster

Disasters affect children differently than they do adults. It’s important to remember they are NOT miniature adults.

  • Children’s bodies are different from adults’ bodies.
    • They are more likely to get sick or severely injured.
      • They breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults do.
      • They have thinner skin, and more of it per pound of body weight (higher surface-to-mass ratio).
      • Fluid loss (e.g. dehydration, blood loss) can have a bigger effect on children because they have less fluid in their bodies.
    • They are more likely to lose too much body heat.
    • They spend more time outside and on the ground. They also put their hands in their mouths more often than adults do.
  • Children need help from adults in an emergency.
    • They don’t fully understand how to keep themselves safe.
      • Older children and adolescents may take their cues from others.
      • Young children may freeze, cry, or scream.
    • They may not be able to explain what hurts or bothers them.
    • They are more likely to get the care they need when they have parents or other caregivers around.
    • Laws require an adult to make medical decisions for a child.
    • There is limited information on the ways some illnesses and medicines affect children. Sometimes adults will have to make decisions with the information they have.
  • Mental stress from a disaster can be harder on children.
    • They feel less of a sense of control.
    • They understand less about the situation.
    • They have fewer experiences bouncing back from hard situations.

Taking care of your family includes being ready for emergencies. Parents can make sure family members know how to be ready for disasters, and what to do when they happen.

Before: A little preparation now can make a big difference later

  • Help the whole family be ready – put together a kit, make a plan, stay informed
  • Recommendations from the AAP
  • Protecting your child during the school day is as easy as ABC:
    • Ask how school plans to reunite parents & children in the event of a disaster
    • Bring extra medications, special food, supplies your child might need for a night away from you
    • Complete a backpack emergency contact card for your child with names and numbers for both local and out of area family members
  • Does someone in your family have special health care needs?
  • Parents-to-be consider the potential needs of both mother and baby

After: Recovery can take time. Be patient. Listen. Love. Support.


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