How to avoid health risks you've been exposed to if you're near floodwater

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - When Houston floods, there's one thing we know for sure: The water is tainted.

Labs confirmed that after Harvey, e. coli and flesh-eating bacteria were in the water. Additionally, there could be chemicals, sewage, dangerous animals and toxins floating down your street and maybe into your home.

Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine want you to keep this in mind and take steps to reduce your risk of illness. 

According to doctors Laila Woc-Colburn and James Kelaher, gastrointestinal and upper respiratory illnesses are a threat because of exposure to contaminated water.

For this, they say to maintain good hand hygiene. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer. It's also good to make sure you leave saturated clothes and shoes outside or immediately wash them in hot water.

Mosquitoes will likely increase. They can carry disease like West Nile virus, so use good insect protection.

One of the most common issues people will notice is increased allergies due to mold, pollen and chemicals that are now in the air and can irritate your respiratory tract.

Debris may lead to falls and cuts.

Wear adequate foot protection, safety glasses and hardhats when doing work outside or around your home. Prompt first aid can help heal small wounds and prevent infection. Any wound that comes into contact with floodwater should be closely monitored for redness or swelling, according to the Houston Health Department.

If you receive a puncture wound that comes into contact with floodwater, the health department advises you to contact your medical provider to determine if a tetanus booster is necessary.

Beware of electrocution risks.

Electrical equipment and outlets that are flooded are not designed to tolerate submersion and are not likely usable. Contact an electrician.

The Houston Health Department said to never let children play in floodwater.

“A flooded street may look like a playground to a child but there are very often dangers in the water that can lead to serious injury and infection,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “Parents who may think it’s OK to let their child go splash around in the floodwater are actually putting their child at serious risk.”

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