Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to environmental exposures and their respiratory effects. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, residents experienced multiple adverse environmental exposures. We characterized the association between upper respiratory symptoms (URS) and lower respiratory symptoms (LRS) and environmental exposures among children and adolescents affected by Hurricane Katrina.
We conducted a cross-sectional study following the return of the population to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (October 2005 and February 2006) among a convenience sample of children and adolescents attending New Orleans health facilities. We used uni-, bi-, and multivariable analyses to describe participants, exposures, and associations with URS/LRS.
Of 1,243 participants, 47% were Caucasian, 50% were male, and 72% were younger than 11 years of age. Multiple environmental exposures were identified during and after the storm and at current residences: roof/glass/storm damage (50%), outside mold (22%), dust (18%), and flood damage (15%). Self-reported URS and LRS (76% and 36%, respectively) were higher after the hurricane than before the hurricane (22% and 9%, respectively, p<0.0001). Roof/glass/storm damage at home was associated with URS (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.59, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15, 2.21) and LRS (AOR=1.35, 95% CI 1.01, 1.80), while mold growth at home was associated with LRS (AOR=1.47, 95% CI 1.02, 2.12).
Children and adolescents affected by Hurricane Katrina experienced environmental exposures associated with increased prevalence of reported URS and LRS. Additional research is needed to investigate the long-term health impacts of Hurricane Katrina.