Prolonged flooding is a potential health risk. Here are seven valuable tips:
The widespread flooding can be very devastating to people’s health. Everyone can be affected, young or old, even if physically fit. The longer it lasts, the greater the risk of people catching some kind of illness from contaminated water or insect-borne diseases.
Below are seven ways in which to protect yourself and your family under these grave circumstances.
1 Digestive disorders
Debilitating illnesses in this category include diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid fever, food poisoning and hepatitis A. Any of them can be contacted by drinking contaminated water, or eating food which has been exposed to polluted water or insects.
Floodwaters contain many kinds of bacteria, so be careful: Keep it as far away from your mouth as possible.
Be careful washing dishes or cleaning fruit and vegetable as the water might be contaminated. If possible, drink only filtered or bottled water, if not, drink water which has been boiled or treated with chlorine or other purifying chemicals, or rainwater. Only eat food cooked recently. Do not allow flies near your eating or living areas.
Only visit bathrooms with toilets when answering nature’s call or look for places with adequate supply of water; do not use the flood water around your house to dispose of human waste. If there are no toilets, use a plastic bag, seal it tight before throwing it away in a proper receptacle. Wash your hands after using the toilet, and before every meal.
If you have diarrhoea, drink water mixed with sugar, salt and minerals (ORS) until the symptoms are relieved. If the symptoms do not improve or you develop a fever or there’s blood in your stool, consult a doctor.
2 Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
It is caused by bacteria in water which enter the eyes. Symptoms include the eyes turning red, eye pain, burning and tearing sensation.
When dirty water enters the eye, you should quickly flush it with clean water. With pink eye the bacteria is contained in tears and nasal mucus: To prevent the disease from spreading, avoid contact with others, and be careful with pillowcases and handkerchiefs. If you suspect you have conjunctivitis, you should consult a doctor immediately.
3 Skin diseases
The most common are foot disease and foot decay caused by bacteria or fungus, which especially like to grow in damp corners of your skin. In the first phase, skin may become inflamed and irritated from contamination. Later, if the skin is wet for an extended period of time, it may begin to rot.
The skin may develop blisters, especially between the toes. These blisters may be itchy and inflammatory. If the blisters open, they may cause additional pain and increase the chances of other infections.
After exposure to flood water, wash your skin thoroughly. Pay special attention to your feet. You may want to sprinkle talcum powder for extra dryness and protection. If possible, wear rubber boots with good traction when wading through water. If the skin starts to rot, apply (waxy) skin or foot balm.
If you develop symptoms which do not improve, seek medical advice.
4 Dangerous bites
Floodwaters, especially the stagnant type, bring out insects such as scorpions and centipedes, poisonous snakes and reptiles. These creatures may enter your house or workplace, and hide in dark areas.
Moving at night, or through dark areas, or moving furniture or other objects, make sure you carry a torch bright enough to show everything around you. If these animals bite, wrap the area tightly with cloth or rubber straps, and seek immediate medical attention. Occasionally loosen the strap, approximately every 10 minutes, to allow blood flow to the area.
5 Leptospirosis (Weil’s syndrome)
This disease causes malfunction of the liver and kidneys. Symptoms are fever, aching calf muscles, red eyes and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). In addition, the patient may experience swelling of the foot’s instep and skin around the eyes.
It is the result of the skin coming in contact with flood water tainted by rodent urine.
Wear adequate protection, such as rubber boots and waterproof jackets, when wading through floodwaters. Rats are the carriers of the disease. If you develop the symptoms, it is important that you quickly see a doctor.
6 Respiratory diseases
Example are flu, tonsillitis and bronchitis which may be contracted by breathing in, or coming in contact with infected drops of mucus, saliva or phlegm. Respiratory diseases are often contacted in congested area and the main symptoms are fever, headache, cough and fatigue.
Cover properly to keep yourself warm and sleep enough to stay strong. You should not wear wet clothes and shoes for long periods. If symptoms such as coughing or discoloured phlegm do not improve, consult a doctor.
7 Accident& electrical safety
Common injuries in cities during flooding include:
a)Wound or infection complications caused by injuries from sharp objects: nails, broken glass, tiles, splinters and other broken objects with points and edges.
b)Electrocution: If soaked or standing in water, your body is a good conductor of electric current. If flood water comes in contact with live electrical switch, it can transmit the current to your body and the consequences can be fatal.
a)Wading through floods always stay vigilant. Wear rubber and protective boots with good traction. If you do get injured, wash the wound immediately with clean water, and remove any dirt or foreign objects. Then use a disinfectant to clean the wound.
b)Switch off the power to flood-prone areas, and turn off all electrical appliances. If there is water or an appliance is wet, do not touch any power cords in electrical outlets.
The information is compiled by Junya Jarayopas, infectious disease, department manager, Bumrungrad Hospital.