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June 2019

How do you stay hygienic after a flood

Written by Lemay Rogers
Health and Safety, Ask the Expert

It’s been 3 months since we heard about the devastating floods in Beira, Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal.  I remember the overwhelming feeling of relief when my family, colleagues and friends confirmed that they were safe and even more so when media reports started circulating about the emergency response plans and aid that was being mobilised to support local communities.

I do wonder how I would react if I had been in that situation and did some research to determine if I would be prepared.  There are obvious things like keeping a first aid kit stocked and making sure you have candles, torches and spare batteries and then there are a few things that didn’t jump to mind immediately like putting important paperwork in a waterproof bag.  I don’t want to sound like a doomsday preacher, but I would encourage you to do some research of your own. I thought the Western Cape Government had a good summary to get you started.

The thing that continues to play on my mind is how you maintain hygiene during a flood.  Although you are surrounded by water, the water is more than likely contaminated with sewage, chemicals and other pollutants.  Your first priority should be to stock up on clean, safe water.

During a flood, clean water will be one of your most prized possessions and needs to be used sparingly but I would urge you not to skimp on the essentials.

Do I continue to wash my hands?

During a disaster, you need to continue washing your hands properly to limit the spread of germs. I would recommend avoiding tap water until the local authorities have deemed it safe for use so consider washing your hands with disinfected or boiled water instead.  If you need a refresher on the correct hand washing technique download our handwashing guide

Remember to compliment your hand washing with a hand sanitiser during this time, especially if you are worried about water quality and water scarcity.

What water do I use to brush my teeth?

It is recommended that you only use safe drinking water to brush your teeth so that you limit the risk of ingesting contaminated water.

Can I bath?

The CDC recommends that clean, safe water is used for bathing and that it is important to check in with your local authorities to confirm if your water is safe to bathe in.  If the water is safe for bathing but not for consumption it is advisable to avoid swallowing the water or getting it into your eyes.

How do I clean my house?

It is recommended that you filter and boil all water before using it for cleaning as you will still come into contact with those surfaces.  It is best to contact the local authorities to check on the severity of water contamination in your area.

During a flood it is important to save water.  Your behaviour during this time is very similar to that of your behaviour during a drought.  Your primary goal is to save clean, safe water and to maximise the usage of safe water during this time.  For more ideas on how you can save water, take a look at a blog post related to the Cape Town drought we published.

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Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial's Sub-Saharan Africa region. When not contributing to the Initial blog, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial Sub-Saharan Africa. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a pre-schooler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on Twitter and LinkedIn for practical advice on good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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