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Flood Water Health Tips

By Kent Donahue

August 23, 2018

Florida is known for its afternoon rainstorms that often bring floodwaters to neighborhoods.  To protect your family, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County has provided these important tips to prevent injury and to control disease. 

Sanitation and Hygiene: Preventing Waterborne Illness

  • Do not allow children to play in flood water. They can be exposed to water contaminated with fecal matter.
  • Do not allow children to play with toys that have been in floodwaters until the toys have been disinfected. Use 1/4 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water to disinfect toys and other items.
  • Flood water may contain fecal matter from sewage systems, agricultural and industrial waste and septic tanks. If you have open cuts or sores exposed to the floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and disinfected or boiled water.
  • Apply antibiotic cream to reduce the risk of infection. If a wound or sore develops redness, swelling or drainage, see a physician.
  • Basic hygiene is very important. Always wash your hands with soap and water.  Use only water that has been boiled or disinfected for washing hands before eating, after toilet use, after helping in cleanup activities and after handling items contaminated by floodwater or sewage.
  • People should avoid driving in moving water, regardless of the size of the vehicle. Heavy rain causes flood waters to rise and pool on streets and throughout neighborhoods. Road surfaces become disguised and drivers can unknowingly steer into a deep body of water, such as a canal or pond. 
  • Electricity from streetlights and power poles may be present in standing water, causing a deadly shock to anyone coming in contact with it.
  • Children playing in contaminated standing water can become sick or be bitten by snakes or floating insects. 

Post Flood Clean-up

  • Clean up debris carefully to avoid injury and contamination.
  • Chainsaws should only be operated in safe conditions (not in water soaked areas) and by people who are experienced in proper use.
  • Lift heavy debris by bending knees and using legs to help lift.
  • Wear shoes to avoid injury to the feet from glass, nails or other sharp objects.
  • Avoid contact with downed power lines.
  • Be alert to wildlife (snakes, alligators, etc.) that may have been displaced as a result of the flood or storm. If you see a snake or other wildlife, back away from it slowly and do not touch it. If the snake is in your home, immediately call the animal control agency in your county. 

Clearing Standing Water: Preventing Mosquito-borne Illness

  • Heavy rains and flooding can lead to an increase in mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and sunset. 

DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
  • Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pet's water bowls at least once to twice a week. Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and keep appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. 

COVER skin with clothing or repellent.

  • Clothing - Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people working in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Repellent - Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. See Tips on Repellent Use below for additional instructions related to children.
    • Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535 are effective.
    • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old. 

COVER doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.

  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios. 

Tips on Eliminating Mosquito Breeding Sites

  • Clean out eaves, troughs and gutters.
  • Remove old tires or drill holes in those used in playgrounds to drain.
  • Turn over or remove empty plastic pots.
  • Pick up all beverage containers and cups.
  • Check tarps on boats or other equipment that may collect water.
  • Pump out bilges on boats.
  • Replace water in birdbaths and pet or other animal feeding dishes at least once a week.
  • Change water in plant trays, including hanging plants, at least once a week.
  • Remove vegetation or obstructions in drainage ditches that prevent the flow of water. 

Tips on Repellent Use

  • Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
  • Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are generally recommended. Other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, or onto clothing, but not under clothing.
  • In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than two months old.
  • Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.
  • If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer’s directions. 

For more information, please contact your county health department or visit www.floridahealth.gov or www.FloridaDisaster.org.