The Hidden Dangers of Flood Water

The Hidden Dangers of Flood Water


The major cause of death and illnesses during floods is by people entering floodwater. This includes driving, riding and walking through floodwater and people playing in floodwater.

Floodwater can contain things like rubbish, dead animals, sewage and other contaminants such as poisons. It is safer to stay clear of floodwater. It is not a place to play.

During and after flood events, we often see images in the media of people especially children playing in floodwater – swimming, riding through and jumping into floodwater. This activity is highly dangerous and there have been deaths of people due to playing in floodwater from illnesses contracted from the water.

The Dangers

Manhole and Erosions – Floodwater can disguise many dangerous obstacles, like uncovered manholes or debris that can cause someone to fall over.  The water can also erode and wash away road surfaces leaving deep holes and uneven surfaces that can damage vehicles.

Diarrheal Diseases – Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. To protect yourself and your family,

  • Practice good hygiene (handwashing) after contact with flood waters.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water areas.
  • Wash children’s hands frequently (always before meals).
  • Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.

Animal and Insect Bites – wild animals including, rodents, snakes or spiders and insects such as mosquitos may be lurking in flood water. Be vigilant, to protect yourself and your family, be alert and avoid contact.  Also if the water has been standing for some weeks be careful of infected house pets.

Wounds & Rashes – Flood waters contain many sharp objects. Open wounds and rashes exposed to flood waters can become infected and can kill you.  Many died after hurricane Katrina from small cuts that got infected.  To protect yourself and your family,

  • Avoid exposure to flood waters if you have an open wound.
  • Cover open wounds with a waterproof bandage.
  • Keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water.
  • If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.

Trent Foot

TrenchFootAlso known as immersion foot, occurs when the feet are wet for long periods of time and could result in your foot becoming amputated and even death. It can be quite painful, but it can be prevented by wearing waterproof socks and treated.  If allowed to progress, tissue and nerve damage occur. Swelling increases and a constant pins and needles sensation develops.  In extreme cases, blisters and ulcers develop, skin starts to peel off and tissues begin to die, resulting in gangrene.  It takes 3-6 months for it to heal and your feet needs to be kept clean and dry.

Chemical Spills – Be aware of potential chemical hazards during floods. Flood waters may have moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places.

swept away flood waterFlood water poses drowning risks for everyone, regardless of their ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children.

Vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. They can be swept away or may stall in moving water.

Avoid Flood Water

Stock up on the right clothing for you and your family in case you have to enter flood water. Remember to spend the minimum amount of time in flood water and remember to be vigilant.

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