Your health and flooding: flooding presents several risks to health
Do not under any circumstances be tempted to enter flood water. The flow of a swollen river along with its under-current can be very powerful. Flood water may also contain raw sewage which can lead to health problems.
Infection problems arising from floods in this country are rare. Usually any harmful bugs in floodwater become very diluted and present a low risk, but there are a few precautions to be aware of when dealing with flooding which should prevent unnecessary additional health problems:
- Wherever possible, try to avoid coming into direct contact with floodwater. If you have to go into the water, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots and remember to be careful of potentially concealed hazards.
- Wash your hands – this is the most important way to get rid of harmful bugs. Use warm, clean water and soap, then rinse and dry your hands after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food, after being in contact with floodwater, sewage or with items that have been in the water. Use cold water to wash if warm is not available. If there is no clean water, use disposable soapy, wet wipes or sanitising gel to carefully clean all parts of your hands and dry them.
- Keep open cuts or sores clean and use waterproof plasters to prevent them being exposed to floodwater.
- Keep children out of the water.
- Do not eat any food that has been in contact with floodwater or sewage.
There are a number of guidance documents which help professionals and the public address those risks and clean up safely. For questions around health and flooding please follow this link for government advice, and for information on what to do before and after a flood, click here.
Advice and guidance
To get more answers to questions you may have regarding flooding and health and how to clean up your home safely, Public Health England have prepared the following information and advice:
- Flooding: planning, managing and recovering from a flood
- Flooding health advice: mental health following floods
- Floods: how to clean up your home safely
- Flooding: questions and answers about health
- This document from the Environment Agency also contains a range of useful information about what to do before, during and after a flood. Environment Agency – What to do before, during and after a flood
Please also look out on social media for the tweets on how to keep safe.