ⓘ Effects of flooding on skin. There are several different types of skin conditions that may result from flooding. In a flood emergency, many residents are forced ..


ⓘ Effects of flooding on skin

There are several different types of skin conditions that may result from flooding.

In a flood emergency, many residents are forced to wade through flood waters to escape, rescuers are exposed to flood waters in the effort to help, and citizens choose to walk in water for recreation. These waters contain pathogens and chemicals which are thus exposed to individuals that come into contact with the waters. Some of the potential contaminants in the flood water include raw sewage, oil, gasoline, and household chemicals such as paints sometimes lead based and insecticides. A major concern is large scale, unintentional release of contaminants from industrial, superfund, or agricultural sites.


1.1. Dermatological manifestations Communicable diseases

Bacterial and fungal skin infections have both been reported after exposure to floodwaters. The risk of infection is increased with traumatic injury to the skin and also in people with certain underlying conditions such as diabetes, chronic venous insufficiency and immunosuppression. Staphylococcal and Streptococcal organisms remain the most common causes of superficial infection after a flooding event. However, exposure to floodwaters is associated with increased risk of infection from atypical bacteria such as vibrio vulnificus and mycobacterium marinum when exposed to saltwater and aeromonas when exposed to contaminated freshwater. People with liver cirrhosis or immunosuppression are at increased risk of developing severe disease with vibrio and aeromonas infections. Fungal infections such as tinea corporis have also been reported especially in warm humid climates.


1.2. Dermatological manifestations Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with chemicals that cause a reaction, often redness, swelling or itchiness. Flood water often contains chemicals from industries or households that can cause such a reaction, these include pesticides, bleach and detergents.


1.3. Dermatological manifestations Traumatic injuries

Flood water consumes land that previously did not contain water. This makes it hard for residents and rescuers to see clearly where they are going, which can hide potential risks for traumatic injuries. This includes the covering of sharp objects, rocks and ditches, electrical hazards down power lines and animals that can be displaced from the flood waters.


1.4. Dermatological manifestations Other manifestations

Additionally, psychological stress associated with a flooding event can lead to psycho-emotional aggravated primary skin disease, which exacerbates pre existing skin diseases such as: atopic dermatitis, alopecia areata, and psoriasis.


2. Prevention

In systems already stressed by the natural disaster, the potential morbidity associated with skin infections or reactions can be life-threatening and is, ultimately, preventable if exposure is limited and post-exposure safety measures are taken. Skin should be thoroughly cleaned and people with exposures should ensure their tetanus vaccinations are up to date.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations:

  • If a wound develops redness, swelling, or oozing, seek immediate medical care.
  • Cover clean, open wounds with a waterproof bandage to reduce chance of infection.
  • Avoid contact with flood waters if you have an open wound.
  • Keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water.
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