Wound Care and Preventing Infections
900 University Boulevard North
Jacksonville, Florida 32211
After a flood, wound care and preventing infections is often a concern. The Florida Department of Health offers advice on several issues related to wounds and flood cleanup.
The risk of wound infection following a flood is raised because of interruptions in the clean water supply, electricity, and normal hygiene practices. Citizens and responders working in and around debris and flood waters may have an increased risk for wounds and infections.
Individuals using equipment that they are unfamiliar with combined with the exertion and fatigue during cleanup activities may also lead to an increase in wounds and injuries. During post-storm cleaning and recovery activities it is important to wear appropriate protective equipment, such as, gloves, work clothes, eye-protection, and heavy shoes or boots, to prevent injuries.
Individuals receiving a wound should follow three simple guidelines:
- Clean the wound. A thorough cleansing of the wound with soap and safe water reduces the potential for infection.
- Apply a bandage to the wound. Keeping the wound dry and protected will reduce the chance of infection and prevent transmission of infection to others.
- Consult a health care provider. If the wound becomes, red, warm to the touch, or there is pus or debris in the wound, consult a healthcare provider.
Remember, it is important to keep wounds clean, covered, and dry to help prevent infection and to seek medical care for infected wounds.
Some organisms that cause infections are resistant to a variety of antibiotics. Not properly caring for these infections can have serious consequences. It is important to understand that a type of infection called MRSA is no more prevalent after a storm or natural disaster than it was prior to the event. Any infected wound that is not healing properly requires prompt medical attention.
Finally, tetanus may be a concern. Tetanus, a bacterial disease that affects the nervous system, is more of a risk during clean-up activities because of increased exposure to debris and floodwaters. Below is information on who may or may not need to receive a vaccination to protect against tetanus:
- Adults should have at least three doses of tetanus-containing vaccine and get a booster at least every 10 years.
- Individuals who receive any wounds in floodwater situations—whether a minor “clean” wound or a more serious, puncture-type, or “dirty” wound—should seek medical help if it's been more than 5 years since their last dose of tetanus-containing vaccine (even if they have received 3 doses of tetanus-containing vaccine in their lifetime), as a booster dose may be required. Some wounds are more tetanus-prone than others and require a tetanus booster sooner than what is recommended for the routine immunization schedule. Your healthcare provider can help determine this.
- Proper wound care is essential for all cuts and lacerations regardless of exposure to floodwaters.
- All children should be fully vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations.
- All adults should get one dose of DTaP, for example when they get their next tetanus booster, or if they are parents or caretakers of a newborn.