Health Dangers in a Flood

Flooding is common in the Tampa Bay area. Tampa is susceptible not only to flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms but also due to sea level rises. Protecting yourself and your loved ones in the event of a flood takes more than just knowing how to evacuate safely. Learn about the numerous dangers associated with flooding to effectively combat all health and safety risks.

Drowning

Many people underestimate the risk of drowning in a flood. Flooding can occur suddenly and without warning, such as in a flash flood, and put even the strongest swimmers at risk of drowning. You may find yourself unexpectedly trapped in your home or vehicle while floodwaters are rising around you. Leave your home as soon as you receive orders to evacuate. Do not attempt to drive through water if you cannot see how deep it is. Obey warnings about flooded roads and try to find higher ground immediately.

Electrocution

If the same storm that has flooded your neighborhood also took down power lines, you may be at risk of being electrocuted. Water is a conductor of electricity, meaning you could be shocked by a live wire that is energizing the water even if it is far away from you. If you can, turn off the electricity to your home in a flood to reduce this risk. Do what you can to avoid touching floodwaters and wear rubber boots to minimize your risk of an electric shock.

Wound Infections

Flooding does not involve clean or purified water that is safe for human contact or consumption. Floodwaters are often contaminated with chemicals, motor oil, sewage, heavy metals, pesticides, organic matter and bacteria. This puts you at risk of many different health problems if you are exposed to floodwaters, including serious wound infections.

If you get injured in a flood, such as scrapes or lacerations while trying to evacuate, these wounds can get infected from contact with contaminants in floodwaters. Avoid touching or being submerged in floodwater as much as possible. If you have any wounds, go to a health care provider right away for professional cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging. You may need a round of antibiotics to combat infections.

Skin Rash

Even without an open wound that could get infected, coming into contact with contaminated floodwaters in general could cause an itchy or painful skin rash. Depending on what substances are found in the floodwaters, you could suffer skin problems from harsh chemicals and other contaminants.

If you have to enter floodwaters, wear protective gear, such as rubber gloves and rubber boots. Reduce your risk of skin irritation by washing any area of your body that touches the water with soap and clean water as soon as possible. Using hand sanitizer or alcohol-based wipes can also work if you do not have access to clean water. Wash any clothes that were contaminated with hot water and detergent before wearing them again.

Ingesting Floodwater

Do not eat or drink anything that has touched floodwater. The water that has flooded your home is likely full of dangerous substances that can cause gastrointestinal illnesses if ingested. You may swallow a bacterium, virus or parasite that results in a major illness, such as E. coli. If you accidentally ingest floodwater or something contaminated by floodwater, go to a hospital for treatment and monitoring. Seek medical care right away if you experience stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or other signs of gastrointestinal issues after a flood.

Animal and Insect Bites

Flood water can pick up and carry many different types of animals, including pets, domestic animals, barn animals and wild animals. This includes displaced snakes, reptiles and rodents that could bite. You may also be subjected to insect bites during a flood. Be alert for insects and displaced animals while evacuating a flood zone in Tampa. Avoid contact as much as possible.