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Live Healthy, Atlanta! Thought Leader Uncategorized

Torrential rains give rise to a couple of concerns: car caution in floods; keeping watch on proliferation of mushrooms with children and pets.

By David Martin, RN, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Relentless torrential rains plaguing the East Coast for days two weeks ago bring to mind many health concerns, including the hazards of flooding, and the dangers of our sudden profusion of mushrooms.

With regard to the dangers of flooding: one needs look no further than South Carolina. There have been 17 deaths so far; in Richland County alone sevens deaths were blamed on people trying to drive though flooded streets. Little wonder the State law enforcement keeps promoting the warning:  Turn Around Don’t Drown.

From the National Weather Service:

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous floodwater. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near floodwaters. People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving floodwater can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into floodwaters.

When the torrential rains hit Atlanta in 2009, ten Georgia residents died. Eight of those died driving across flooded roads. The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office says  “improved forecasting tools and greater availability of real-time data – such as flood inundation mapping and increased river gage density – should aid hydrologists, meteorologists and decision makers when the next big flood strikes.”

Still, as Fall – historically our wettest season – progresses, and global warming seems to evoke even more extreme weather, South Carolina’s battle cry of Turn Around Don’t Drown, sounds like a good thing to remember for Georgians – and all other Americans – as well.

With regard to mushrooms: if your yard is anything like mine, the eight or so days of non-stop rain gave rise to a proliferation of many different types of mushrooms. Atlanta is in a prime location for the growth of all manner of fungi. The good news is we are not in a drought. The concern is that of all the thousands of species of  mushrooms that grow in Georgia, there are probably more than 100 species that are poisonous, and with all the rain, there are more mushrooms of every kind.

Within hours of noticing all the “new” mushrooms in my yard, news came out that no doubt saddened many pet lovers. Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, of action-hero fame, had recently taken to posting amusing stories about his two French bulldogs, one of which seemed to constantly be in some type of peril. Recently the peril-prone pup, Brutus, found and ate poisonous mushrooms in Johnson’s yard, and Johnson mournfully posted the sad news that Brutus would not survive the poisoning.

As any veterinarian will confirm, dogs will eat anything.  As almost any parent will confirm, if a toddler can get it into his hand, a toddler will put it in his or her mouth. So if you’ve spotted a new outcropping, it pays to check the yard for mushrooms, remove them, and dispose of them safely before letting the children or the dogs out to play.

Many types of mushrooms will make a child or dog very ill. But the most common poisonous mushroom is the Amanita, nicknamed the “Death Cap.” It is mostly white, with a flat edge on top and white gills underneath. This species causes the highest number of mushroom-poisoning deaths in humans.

In the case of human ingestion, get to an emergency room as quickly as possible. According to mushroom expert Dave Fischer, depending on the species ingested, the outcome could range from flu-like symptoms, to extensive damage to the liver requiring a transplant, to death.

Signs that your dog has eaten something toxic? Vomiting, diarrhea, stumbling, drooling, even seizing. These symptoms can be fatal, as, according to Dr. Terry Randolph, “it’s not necessarily the mushroom toxicity that’s fatal, but the seizures and the increase in body temperature can cause fatality.”

Veterinarians can only treat the symptoms of mushroom poisoning. Pet owners are advised to take a sample of the mushroom ingested with them so it can be identified. Depending on the type of mushroom eaten, the amount eaten, and the onset of treatment, outcomes range from illness to liver damage to death. Hence the warning to do a serious check of the yard, and to watch your pet, especially if your dog is the kind that eats whatever it finds.

With more rain in the forecast, I hope you will share these concerns regarding flood safety and cars, and the danger mushrooms can be to children and animals, with loved ones and friends. And, as the rains will probably feed many other poisonous plants in and around Atlanta, I’d also recommend a check of the Georgia Poison Control Center, which is another great resource.

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