Our region is facing historic flooding in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Here are six floodwater-related health risks to be aware of:
Automobile accidents are one of the top hazards associated with floodwaters. Even shallow water can be dangerous, so never drive through a flooded roadway. Wading in floodwater is also unsafe because there may be many dangers below the water, including sharp debris, that isn’t visible to the eye. In addition, floodwater presents a risk of drowning, particularly for young children, and may displace animals such as snakes and alligators from their natural habitats.
Because there may be unsafe substances in the water, including raw sewage, wounds can become infected. If a wound comes into contact with floodwaters, wash it with soap and clean water as soon as you’re able, and re-bandage it with a clean, sterile bandage.
Mold can also be a serious concern after flooding. Homes subject to floodwater should be properly and safely remediated.
Just as raw sewage may be in floodwaters, so may hazardous substances. Industrial chemicals and household cleaners can be dislocated from their regular storage and containment areas during a hurricane. The risk of poisoning from contaminated floodwaters is relatively low, but it’s still important to exercise caution. Avoid floodwater altogether if you can, but if you can’t, be careful not to ingest the water or allow it to enter your mouth or eyes.
Downed or underground power lines can electrically charge floodwaters. Electrical hazards may not be visible, and wading in floodwaters can put you at risk.
If you spend significant time working or walking in floodwaters, you may be at increased risk for trench foot. Trench foot is a painful immersion foot disorder that is caused when feet remain damp for a long period of time. You can help prevent the condition by air-drying and elevating your feet, and by regularly exchanging wet shoes and socks for dry ones.