During storms, it’s sometimes impossible to avoid wading through floodwater to get to higher, drier ground.

Most longtime locals know the danger. And most know that it’s a very bad idea to play in floodwater or try to drive through high water in vehicles, where they risk getting swept away or their cars being destroyed.

While it’s tempting for children to play in floodwater, they risk being exposed to contamination and other hazards.

Galveston County residents might remember a well-known businessman lost part of his leg to a bacterial infection that doctors suspect he con- tracted from Hurricane Ike floodwaters in 2008.

Tropical Storm Beta is a good opportunity to remind people why they should stay out of floodwater.

Floodwater can pose a drowning risk for everyone — regardless of a person’s ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends:

• Always follow warnings about flooded roads.

• Don’t drive in flooded areas — cars or other vehicles won’t protect you from floodwaters. They can be swept away or might stall in moving water.

Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health, such as:

• Downed power lines;

• Human and livestock waste;

• Household, medical and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological and radiological);

• Waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium and mercury;

• Other contaminants that can lead to illness;

• Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles and other debris;

• Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes;

Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause:

• Wound infections;

• Skin rash;

• Gastrointestinal illness;

• Tetanus;

• Leptospirosis, caused by exposure to the urine of infected animals and is fairly uncommon, can cause high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes and abdominal pain.

Although the best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water, sometimes it’s unavoidable.

If you come in contact with floodwater:

• Wash the area of your body exposed to the water with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.

• Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.

• Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent before reusing them.

If you must enter floodwater, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles, and take care to prevent injuries. Floodwater might contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal fragments, that can cause injury and lead to infection. Prompt first aid can help heal small wounds and prevent infection.

If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil or saliva, have a health care professional determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records.

Daily News Editorial Board


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(3) comments

Bailey Jones

Thanks for the reminder. I also enjoy playing in the water - usually with a rake to pull debris out of the storm drains. But considering the number of mosquito bites I have on my old man legs, I'll think twice now.

Paula Flinn

Very good article. You forgot to mention hills of fire ants in the water.

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

That's a good point. We didn't think about that until we published the article.

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