Health concerns: Do’s and Don’ts after the Floods

Colombo the commercial capitol of Sri Lanka faced one of the worst floods in it’s history this month. Even though, floodwaters have started receding from parts of the city, the day to day lives of most of the residents are badly hit in most of the areas.

Weather forecast predicts that after a brief respite, Sri Lanka may witness the rains from South West Monsoon coming in to the effect soon. However the intensity of rains will be restricted to light showers with few moderate/heavy spells.

As their homes are emerging back from the flood water, people are gradually coming back to start their lives that have been hit badly by the flood waters, most of their belongings including clothes, electrical equipment, Furniture …etc are gone or have damaged from the water. Even though the flood waters are gone the areas that had been under water for several days create potential Health risks and many other hazards to the returning people.

Receding Floods Colombo
Water levels in Flood effected areas are gradually receding – (Photo Madyawediya FB Page)

Given below is a curated list of dos and don’ts based on verified information available. Spread the word and stay safe.

  1. Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. Practice good hygiene (hand washing), do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.
  2. If there is a water shortage, rainwater could be harvested by placing containers on your terrace, which could be boiled and filtered for use.
  3. In case there is no access to boiling water or gas/heating mechanisms, even a piece of cloth (folded four to eight times) can be used as a filter and scientific research has shown that it excludes most of the particulate matter and can reduce the chance of cholera by almost 50%. It has been proven to be an effective method of filtration in flood-ravaged countries like Bangladesh.
  4. If you have access to medicines, stock up on Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS-“Jeewanee”) packets to prevent diarrhoea and antiemetic drugs to prevent vomiting.

    SL Navy Medical Camp
    A medical Camp for the flood effected people in Colombo, (Photo – SL Navy)
  5. Do not stand in stagnant water. With sewage water getting mixed with all water sources, standing in these stagnant pools can lead to leptospirosis.
  6. If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, have a doctor or health department determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records.
  7. Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
  8. Use extreme caution when returning to your area after a flood. Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery. Flood waters may have buried or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places.
  9. All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before turning them on.
  10. Electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions.
  11. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately.
  12. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches.
  13. Car batteries, even those in flood water, may still contain an electrical charge and should be removed with extreme caution by using insulated gloves. Avoid coming in contact with any acid that may have spilled from a damaged car battery.
  14. Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to five gallons of water.

    SL Navy Cleanup Hel
    SL Navy personnel Helping the cleanup process of the flood effected homes(Photo SL Navy)
  15. If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected.
  16. Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc.
  17. After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).


For more information contact the Disaster Management Sub Committee of the GMOA.

The Disaster Management Sub Committee (DMSC) was established by the GMOA would be coordinated by doctors and community medical officers. Disaster Coordination Center of GMOA in action 24/7

Hotline: 0710147075