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The flood situation can be very devastating for people’s health. Everyone can be affected, young or old, even if physically fit. The longer the flooding will last, the more risk there is of coming down with some kind of illness from contaminated water or insect borne diseases.
Below are 7 ways to protect you and your family from these conditions.
1. Digestive Illnesses: These debilitating illnesses include diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, food poisoning and hepatitis A. Any of these illnesses can be contracted from drinking contaminated water, or food which has been subject to bad water or insects.
Prevention: Flood water contains many kinds of bacteria. Be careful to keep flood water away from your mouth.
Be careful of washing dishes, fruits and vegetables with water which might be contaminated. Drink only filtered or bottled water if possible. If not possible, drink only water which has been boiled or treated with chlorine or other purifying chemicals, or even rainwater. Only eat food which has been recently cooked. Do not allow flies to swarm near eating or living areas.
Only go to the bathroom in toilets or other areas which can be covered by appropriate water – do not use the flood water around your house to dispose of human waste. If you cannot use a toilet, use plastic bags, seal tightly and throw away in a proper receptacle. Wash your hands after using the toilet, and each time before eating.
If you have diarrhea, drink water mixed with sugar, salt, and minerals (ORS) until the symptoms are relieved. If the symptoms do not improve or you begin a fever, have blood or other substance in your stool, consult a doctor.
2. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Pink eye comes from bacteria in water which enters the eye. Symptoms include a red colored eye, eye pain, burning and tearing.
Prevention: When dirty water enters the eye, you should quickly flush your eye with clean water. Once you have Pink Eye, the bacteria is contained in tears and nasal mucus – to prevent spreading the disease you need to be careful to avoid coming into 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: During the flood, the biggest dangers are foot diseases and foot rot. These are 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 inflamed. If the blisters open, they may cause additional pain and increase the chances of other infections.
Prevention: After being in 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 to walk in the water. If the skin becomes rotted or eroded, apply a (waxy) skin or foot balm for treatment.
If you develop symptoms which do not improve, seek medical advice for treatment.
4. Dangerous Bites: Flood water, especially standing water, brings out insects such as scorpions and centipedes, as well as poisonous snakes and animals. These creatures may enter your house or workplace, and hide in dark areas.
Prevention: Especially at night, if you move through dark areas or are moving furniture or other objects, ensure you have light bright enough to see everything around you. If these animals bite, wrap the area tightly with cloth or bandages and seek immediate medical attention. Occasionally loosen the cloth or bandages, approximately every 10 minutes, to allow a little blood flow to the area. Immobilize the limb as much as possible and leave the bandages on the limb until you can reach medical care.
5. Dengue Fever: Dengue is spread by mosquitos which are infected by this viral disease. You should be aware of a combination of the following symptoms: high fever, joint pain, severe headache or backache, nausea and vomiting, eye pain, skin rashes and bloody nose or gums.
Prevention: During flood periods, it is difficult to protect against dengue. The normal protection methods, such as removing sources of standing water, are difficult to apply. However, you can help to protect yourself by wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants when in or near the water. Wear shoes instead of flip flops or sandals. Spray mosquito repellent on open skin areas, and reapply after being in water. If possible, sleep with a fan directed at you. Around dusk time and at night, when mosquitos tend to be more active, be especially diligent with protection.
6. Leptospirosis (Weil's Syndrome, or “Rat Pee Infection” in Thai): This disease causes malfunction of the liver and kidneys. Symptoms are fever, aching calf muscles, red eyes and jaundice (yellowing skin). In addition, the patient may experience swelling of the foot’s instep and skin around the eyes.
It is contracted through skin contact with infected rodent urine in flood water.
Prevention: Wear adequate protection, such as rubber boots and waterproof jackets, when you need to walk in water. Control rats, which are carriers of the disease and are often present in long standing flood conditions. If you have the symptoms of this disease, it is important to quickly see a doctor.
7. Respiratory Diseases: Example illnesses are flu, tonsillitis and bronchitis which may be contracted by breathing in, or contact with, infected drops of mucus, saliva or phlegm. Respiratory diseases are often contracted by being physically exhausted around crowded areas. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, cough and fatigue.
Prevention: You should take care of your body and sleep enough to stay strong, fit and warm. You should not wear wet clothes and shoes for long periods of time. If symptoms, especially coughing or discolored phlegm, do not improve, consult with a doctor.
8. Accident & Electrical Safety: The following are common injuries during city emergencies.
a. Wound or infection complications from injuries from sharp objects: nails, broken glass, tiles, splinters and other broken objects with points and edges.
b. Electrocution: When you are wet or in a body of water, electric current can run through your body. When flooding nears contacts an electrical switch (e.g. light switch), socket or electrical appliance, the water can conduct the electricity to your body, potentially resulting in death.
a. While walking in water, you must always stay vigilant. Wear rubber and protective boots with good traction. If you do become injured, wash out 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 any areas which may have flooding, and turn off all electrical appliances. If there is water or if an appliance is wet, do not touch any power cords in electrical outlets.