Study objective: To determine the effect of Hurricane Andrew on a pediatric emergency department.
Design: A retrospective analysis of ED visits through the use of computerized records and chart review.
Setting: A children's hospital in South Florida.
Type of participants: All patients presenting to the ED during the control week and the two study weeks after the hurricane.
Measurements: Census, diagnoses, admission rate, and patient geographic origin and age.
Main results: During week 1, there was an average daily increase of 40.7% in patient volume (P < .01) and a 3.3% decrease in the admission rate (P < .01). The increased census was due mainly to local patients, rather than those from the most devastated areas. More patients were seen with open wounds, gastroenteritis, and impetigo (all, P < .05); more were more than 18 years old (P < .05). By the second week, both census and admission rate returned to normal; cases of cellulitis (P < .05) and open wounds (P < .001) were increased. Although not statistically significant, a higher percentage of hydrocarbon and/or bleach ingestions was seen for both weeks.
Conclusion: Following a hurricane, personnel in a pediatric ED can expect to see an increased census, with more diagnoses of open wounds, gastroenteritis, and skin infections. They may also see hydrocarbon and bleach ingestions. Alerting parents to the potential for injury and accidental poisoning in their children after a hurricane may help prevent the reported morbidity.