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Managing your health during a natural disaster

Carbon monoxide poisoning (at home)
General health
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Using the toilet
Protecting against the cold
Caring for the elderly
Taking regular medication
Preventing the spread of infectious diseases at evacuation centres
Taking care of your physical condition through diet
Caring for those with allergies
Sleeping at evacuation centres
How to make your own sanitary towels
What you can do for yourself
Taking care of what you eat
Carbon monoxide poisoning (at the evacuation centre)


•Carbon monoxide poisoning (at home)

Kerosene heaters use the air in the room to burn and produce heat. Therefore, if the room is not well ventilated, oxygen can diminish and incomplete combustion can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The risk of incomplete combustion occurring can be higher when using old kerosene. When using a kerosene heater, make sure to ventilate the room well by opening the window regularly.

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•General health

To maintain your health, it is important to drink fluids, exercise, and sleep. When a natural disaster occurs it can be difficult to sleep and you can lose your appetite, but try to maintain a well ordered life.

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•Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

If you sit in the same position for long periods of time, or do not drink enough fluids, you can develop blood clots which can make it difficult or impossible to breathe. Taking regular walks, drinking fluids, taking deep breaths, and sleeping with your legs elevated can help prevent DVT.

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•Using the toilet

Using the toilet is a necessary part of life. There may not be many toilets, and they may smell bad, so it is understandable that you may not want to use them. However, if you drink less and eat less on purpose to avoid going to the toilet, it can affect your health. You may develop constipation, poor blood circulation, and even blood clots. Be mindful of others when using the toilet.

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•Protecting against the cold

It is most likely cold at evacuation shelters due to the lack of blank In addition, if you cannot eat, it can be difficult for your body to produce heat and energy. In this situation it is important to stop heat from escaping your body. Avoid drafty areas near doors and instead lay cardboard on the floor, fill your clothes with towels and sleep close to others to share body heat.

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•Caring for the elderly

Evacuation centres are small, and there may not be room to walk between people. There may be people who volunteer to care for the elderly to minimize their movement. However, for the elderly, if they remain immobile for too long it can be difficult to move at all. When staying at an evacuation centre please encourage the elderly to be physically active by doing the following:
・Folding up the futons during the daytime to prevent people from lying down all day
・Make walkways through the futons so people can walk freely
・Take regular walks and move your body as much as possible

It is just as important to keep physically active as it is to rest your body when you are living in an evacuation centre.

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•Taking regular medication

It is likely that some people staying at evacuation centres will probably be taking regular medication. If you are one of these people, you may not have been able to bring your medication with you when you evacuated. If you have a chronic condition, and need to take daily medication, please speak with one of the medical staff at the centre. In particular, if you have had a stroke, a heart condition, or diabetes, please speak with medical staff as soon as possible. Don't worry if you don't know the name of the medicine you were taking but if you remember anything your doctor told you to be careful of, make sure to pass it on to the medical staff. It is important that you start taking your medication again as soon as possible.

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•Preventing the spread of infectious diseases at evacuation centres

It can be difficult to eat properly and get enough rest when living at an evacuation centre. This can cause you to lose strength and become susceptible to influenza, colds and diarrhoea.

Try the following prevention methods for infectious diseases (influenza, colds, norovirus etc.)
1. Wash your hands after using the toilet or assisting children/the elderly, and before you eat. If you don't have access to running water you can use alcohol-based sanitizers or wet wipes
2. Wear a mask. If masks are in short supply, prioritise those who have a fever, or are coughing and sneezing. If you don't have a mask, cover your mouth with a handkerchief or tissue when you cough and sneeze
3. Use a mask and gloves when disposing of vomit and faeces
4. Ventilate the room by opening windows regularly throughout the day
5. When you are preparing food wear gloves to avoid the spread of bacteria
6. Heat food products that require heating thoroughly

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•Taking care of your physical condition through diet

Living as an evacuee for extended periods of time can cause your blood pressure to rise. After experiencing a natural disaster because of stress and lack of sleep, sometimes you will find that you want to eat salty foods. Try not to eat too much salt so that you can maintain your normal blood pressure and make sure to consume enough fluids.

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•Caring for those with allergies

For people with allergies, if they eat the substance they are allergic to, this can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and sometimes even death. Sometimes people cannot eat certain foodstuffs because of religion (pork, beef, etc.) If you are about to eat something you have never eaten before, make sure to check what's in it. If you have any allergy please tell the staff at the evacuation centre. If you have asthma, try to avoid dusty places.

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•Sleeping at evacuation centres

Living at an evacuation centre for an extended period of time can sometimes lead to a lack of sleep. Try these techniques for improved sleep.

  • Get sunlight and exercise during the day. If you stay inside all day, you can restrict your blood flow and it can become difficult to sleep.
  • When you are sleeping on a futon laid out on a hard floor, try sleeping while holding your pillow to reduce the stress on your lower back.
  • Use tissue for ear plugs and towels as eye masks.

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•How to make your own sanitary towels

Sanitary items are essential products for women. Until a sufficient amount of these products can be provided at evacuation shelters, you can make sanitary napkins by using absorbent cloth such as towel-cloth handkerchiefs, cotton underwear, or old cloth clothes.

(1) Prepare a cloth as big as handkerchief (20 to 25 cm)

(2) Fold the cloth into thirds from the right and left sides.

(3) Place it on the crotch area of your underwear.


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•What you can do for yourself

After experiencing a natural disaster you can sometimes experience poor mental or physical health. Feeling disturbed and experiencing ups and downs in your mood happens to everybody irrespective of strength or weakness. What is important is to be kind to yourself and seek support from those around you when you need it.

Here are 6 things you can do for yourself:

  1. Talk about your feelings and thoughts
    Don't hold in your feelings of anxiety or anger. Talk about them with somebody you can trust.
  2. Eat and sleep
    Do not forget to maintain your strength by eating and sleeping enough.
  3. When you feel like you are blaming yourself, try to find a change of scenery.
    It could be as simple as turning on the lights or getting some quick exercise.
  4. Stop blaming yourself
    When you feel like you are blaming yourself, try to find a change of scenery.
  5. Exercise gradually
    Through exercising you can become aware of ways your physical condition has changed.
  6. Speak to a professional
    If you feel depressed and can't sleep for extended periods of time, consult with a counsellor or a doctor.

Recover will always come after a natural disaster. Do not assume the burden alone. Find somebody who you can trust to share your thoughts and feelings with.

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•Taking care of what you eat

Try to eat at the evacuation centre. Do not eat old food from your house. Try to maintain good hygiene as much as possible, and be careful of food poisoning.

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•Carbon monoxide poisoning (at the evacuation centre)

The power generator at your evacuation centre should be outside of the building, but even then, carbon monoxide poisoning is still a risk if it is near the entrance or if there is strong wind blowing back into the building. If you are near the power generator and you get a headache or feel ill, let medical staff know and consider moving the generator or changing the ventilation strategies you have in place.

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For Enquiries
Multiculturalism Promotion Division
Tel : +81-3-5213-1725
Fax : +81-3-5213-1742
Email : tabunka@clair.or.jp
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