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Houses flooded by Hurricane Sandy may aggravate asthma symptoms

For home owners in New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy, the cleanup is underway, and may take several weeks. However, asthma sufferers are facing an extra challenge: mold in the aftermath of flooded houses.

Living in a home with mold can cause health problems such as skin and eye irritation, a stuffy nose or shortness of breath. Those symptoms can be magnified for people with asthma or allergies. Ideally, homes should be gutted within 48 hours of flooding. The floodwaters also left behind contaminants, so residents are advised to clean carefully.

In the United States, an estimated 25 million Americans have asthma. This chronic lung disease inflames and narrows the airways, resulting in symptoms that may include tightness in the chest, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, sleep interruptions, fatigue, and/or the inability to fully expand the lungs. Since asthma has no cure, it can cause flare-ups at any time, and without warning.

Needless to say, the serious breathing problems which may be caused by asthma can make it difficult to work. Fortunately, many workers in New Jersey and across the country are able to manage their asthma symptoms with a combination of medicines: long-term control medicine to reduce airway inflammation, and quick-relief medicines to relieve symptoms from unexpected flare-ups.

The cause of asthma is unknown, although researchers think both genetic and environmental factors interact to cause the disease, most often early in life. Those factors may include an inherited tendency to develop allergies, parents who have asthma, certain respiratory infections during childhood, or contact with certain airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing.

For those who are unable to work because of breathing problems, such as asthma, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits may be available. The application for SSDI benefits will require not only a diagnosis, but also documentation of the functional limitations of the disease and your reported symptoms. An attorney will be knowledge about the most current evidentiary requirements you will need to provide to the Social Security Administration.

Source: Brandenton Herald, "Rubble cleanup a massive task in NY, NJ," David B. Caruso, Nov. 20, 2012

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