- Floods can cause issues with food and water safety. Be sure to follow recommendations and boil orders.
- Children should never be allowed to play in flood waters.
- Do not feed animals during flooding.
- Wear the proper personal protective equipment and follow proper clean-up practices.
It has been a wet spring for Missouri with lots of rain causing flooding across the entire state. Rivers have risen to near record levels, causing damage to homes, road closures, and increased exposure to pests such as gnats, mosquitoes, and snakes.
FOOD AND WATER SAFETY
During power outages never use portable generators, charcoal grills, or kerosene cooking devices indoors – this can put your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow these food safety recommendations:
- The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it remains unopened, a full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours, if the door remains closed.
- Discard refrigerated food such as meat, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs and deli items if the food temperature is above 41oF for more than 4 hours.
- Do not consume any food or beverages with screw caps or flip tops if they have had contact with flood waters.
- Do not consume any food wrapped in plastic wrap, cardboard or porous containers if they have come in contact with food water.
- Discard any food or water that animals have come in contact with.
Undamaged, commercially prepared food in metal cans can be made safe by removing the label, thoroughly washing and rinsing with hot soapy water, then disinfecting the cans with a sanitizing solution of 1 cup bleach to 5 gallons (~ 3 tablespoons per gallon) of clean water. Re-label the can using masking tape that can be written on; be sure to include the expiration date.
After a flood, assume all water sources are contaminated until proven safe. Make sure water is not only safe to drink, but also is safe to use in cooking or cleaning. Drink, cook and brush teeth with only bottled water or water that you have purified at home until the tap water is safe. If you have a private well that is flooded, do not turn on the pump and do not flush it with water. Contact your local health department.
Don’t forget about all of your medications including pills, liquids, injectable, inhalers and topical ointments. If exposed to flood waters, they are considered contaminated. Medications stored properly in their original containers that are dry can be taken but do not use any tablets that appear wet or look and smell different.
Small children always need to be watched closely but especially during times of disaster. Children should never be allowed to play in or near murky flood waters. There can be reptiles, snakes, sharp objects, debris, or downed power lines that are not visible from the surface. The water can contain chemicals and raw sewage which poses risk for transmission of diseases. Storm drains can be obscured by the water and create powerful undercurrents that can easily sweep children away.
Certain family members, such as children and pregnant women, should not participate in clean-up activities because they are more at risk for injury or complications from an illness transmitted by flood waters. Pregnant women risk exposing their fetus to unhealthy chemicals that can cross the placenta. Children may not have access to correctly fitting protective equipment that are available to adults. They also may not be able to appropriately judge what is safe and what is not.
SAFETY FROM WILDLIFE
Flood waters not only affect our homes but also wildlife habitats. As the water levels rise, animals will seek shelter where it is dry and food is available. Many insects, such as mosquitoes, thrive in moist environments.
There has been an increase in gnats (specifically Buffalo gnats) and mosquitoes in the area due to the flood waters. Gnats are not harmful but can be a frustrating nuisance. Generally, they are weak fliers so turning on a fan outside can help keep them away. It has also been reported that they do not like the scent of vanilla. For all insects, reducing standing water may help decrease numbers in your yard. Using an insect repellant is recommended to stop mosquito bites. Remember to follow our advice for insect repellants here.
Should you feed the animals?
With the displacement of animals from their home and food source, it is tempting to feed them. While it feels like the right thing to do, the best course is to leave the animals to their own instincts. Offering food gives wildlife incentive to remain at your home instead of moving on and adapting to their new situation.
Special precautions need to be taken with children in regards to wildlife. These animals may look cute and fuzzy, but they are very different than the domesticated pets your children are familiar with. No matter how friendly an animal may seem, teach your children to never approach or attempt to feed one. Bites from wild animals carry the risk for rabies and will require treatment.
Contact the Missouri Department of Conservation for more information about wildlife safety during floods: https://mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/regional-offices
CONCERNS WITH MOLD
After flooding has occurred, the water that was in your home can lead to the growth of mold. The presence of mold is easily recognizable both by sight and smell. Walls and ceilings become discolored with the mold and there is an earthy, musty odor all throughout the affected rooms.
All individuals exposed to mold can have reactions with minor symptoms such as stuffy nose, watery eyes, and throat irritation. People with breathing conditions such as asthma and allergies are more sensitive to the presence of mold. They can develop wheezing, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
People who have breathing problems, weakened immune systems and all young children should stay away from the cleanup because they are more sensitive to mold and can even develop infections.
Cleaning up after the flood waters have receded is labor intensive. Before the actual cleaning starts, protect yourself by using the appropriate personal protective equipment such as non-porous gloves, mask, and goggles.
The drying out and cleaning should be done as soon as possible in the first 24-48 hours. All doors and windows should be opened with fans running to provide fresh air and ventilation, this includes inside doors that lead to interior rooms and closets. Fans should be placed near windows or doors, the air should go outward so the mold does not spread indoors. Dehumidifiers will help with removal of excess moisture.
Dispose of all porous items such as mattresses, pillows, carpets, carpet padding, wallpaper, drywall, upholstery, floor and ceiling tiles, stuffed animals, books and other paper products that have been wet for more than 48 hours. When in doubt, throw it out! All hard surfaces: metal, concrete, countertops, appliances, sinks and plumbing fixtures should be washed using hot, soapy water. After washing, sanitize the surfaces using household bleach, mix 1 cup of household bleach into a 5 gallons of water (~ 3 tablespoons per gallon). Never mix bleach with other cleaners like ammonia, they react with each other to make a noxious gas.
In order to make sure the mold does not return, the water source leading to the growth needs to be identified and repaired. This can turn into a big job, difficult for a homeowner to tackle without outside help. If this becomes necessary, there are remediation specialists that inspect, repair and restore the damaged parts of your home.
Learn more: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/
For any questions or concerns about mold, floodwater, etc., call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. Specially trained nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions. The service is free and confidential.