Oklahoma Tornado Victims Suffering From ‘Tornado Cough,’ Deadly Health Effects Similar to 9/11 Survivors

"Tornado Cough"
Trish Ford, of Woodward, Okla., sporting a face mask. A medical condition known as "tornado cough" is affecting victims of the May 20 tornado. REUTERS/Jeff Tuttle

While victims of last month's deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., have been trying to rebuild their lives and homes, some are just beginning to experience health-related effects from the monster twister.

According to a report from KFOR-TV, locals who  survived the recent natural disaster are now reportedly suffering from “tornado cough,” an allergic reaction to debris in the air. Dr. Jason Sigmon, an Oklahoma City-based otolaryngologist, confirmed that all residents near the affected area are susceptible to such an allergy attack, comparing the health issue to what 9/11 survivors experienced. "Tornado cough" symptoms include a noticeable increase in coughing, congestion or similar symptoms of an asthma attack.

“You don’t have to have asthma to overwhelm your respiratory system,” said Dr. Sigmon, who said the combination of drywall, fiberglass and mold can be deadly when inhaled over a long period of time. “We saw it with 9/11 and  the World Trade Center bombings and all the debris that was in the air,” he said.

One local family affected by the tragedy, the Macias family, said their children Neko and Kyler are dealing with the cough. Their mom Lisa said she first noticed the medical issue after visiting the family's destroyed home near Plaza Towers Elementary school.

“The very first night, right after it happened, we came over to see if there was anything we could get, medicine-wise, for my son and get stuff out of the house and we didn’t wear a mask,” said Lisa Macias. “That was the night I really noticed, when we got back, that they were coughing a little bit and my youngest one was really scared,” she said.

The Macias family now claims that going outside can bring on a full-blown coughing attack. “You feel like your chest is a just a little bit heavier, and then after a few days you feel fine,” Lisa said, noting the family is now using face masks. “You don’t know what’s in the air right now and you hear so much… It’s just the not knowing of what you’re breathing in and what could happen later, so we just try to eliminate it as much as possible.”

Those in the vicinity of the Moore tornado site are advised to wear masks to protect against inhaling the remaining debris.

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