Flooding presents a risk to your health – advice and precautions
In the past few weeks, storms and flooding have caused severe disruption, affecting us in many different ways – from those experiencing flooding in their homes to those who have had their travel arrangements disrupted due to road closures.
Flooding has brought us many challenges, but as water levels have dropped and the clean up continues, it is important to be aware of the hazards left behind that are not so easily visible.
Do not under any circumstances be tempted to enter floodwaters. The flow of a swollen river along with its undercurrent can be very powerful. Floodwater may also contain raw sewage which can lead to health problems. However, 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 to help prevent unnecessary health problems; as follows:
- Wherever possible, avoid coming into contact with floodwater. If you must go into areas where some floodwater remains, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots, and remember to be careful of hazards below the surface that you might not be able to see.
- Wash your hands – this is the single best way to get rid of harmful bugs. If you have been in contact with floodwater or sewage, or handled items that have, it is essential that you wash with warm, clean water and soap. 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 consume any food or drink that has been in contact with floodwater or sewage.
Practising good hand hygiene is an excellent way to protect yourself from germs associated with floods, but also to prevent the spread of flu and other viruses. Please follow this link to NHS guidance on the best way to wash your hands.
Further 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.