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February 2018

Harvey, Irma, and Maria—The Dermatologic Risks of Hurricanes and Floods

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, Biddeford, Maine
  • 2University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore
  • 3University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(2):187. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.4919

Hurricane Harvey and Irma may be behind us, but many of the effects of the storms continue to unfold. Harvey dumped a record of 51 inches of rainfall over Texas and Louisiana in 6 days. Irma remained a category 5 hurricane for 3 days, making it the strongest Atlantic-basin hurricane recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico. More recently, Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Dermatologic conditions resulting from major flooding have played an interesting role in history. During World War I, immersion foot, or trench foot, was seen in soldiers wearing wet socks and boots for lengthy time periods while in frigid, moist trenches. There is a similar concern in warmer climates, particularly in victims or responders to flooding disasters. Called tropical immersion foot, this condition can present as a subacute dermatitis with a burning pain, itching, and occasional intermittent paresthesias.1

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