High Water, Currents Pose Risk For Drowning

Monday, May 02, 2011 | 02:43 pm
Know Children’s Whereabouts; Avoid Risky Behavior
NASHVILLE  – The Tennessee Department of Health is issuing an urgent call to parents and adults providing care to keep kids and teenagers from flood waters as well as rivers, lakes and creeks that have higher than normal water levels and strong currents. The department also is asking people to avoid risky behavior, keeping clear of storm water drains, inlets and pipes whenever possible. Several areas across Tennessee are experiencing flooding or face the possibility of flooding later this week.
“It’s important that parents and adults responsible for children and teens make sure they are not in danger, taking care to keep them from flood water as well as swollen creeks, streams and other bodies of water,” said State Epidemiologist Tim F. Jones, M.D. “The water presents a huge temptation to kids from elementary to high school age. This will take on greater urgency in the coming days, and it can mean the difference between life and death.”
Flood waters present health risks because currents in flood ravaged areas can be particularly strong, proving challenging for even the most skilled water rescue personnel. Additionally, experienced swimmers can easily get caught or swept away in rushing waters.
Recent news reports show Tennessee residents trying to unclog storm water drains in communities affected by heavy rain in the last several days.
“We also are specifically warning people not to attempt to unclog storm water drains, no matter how tempting it may be as flood waters begin to rise,” said Jones. “This could easily and quickly pose a very dangerous situation and is a potential drowning hazard.”
It does not take much water to present a danger. As little as one inch of water covering the nose and mouth can cause drowning. Just six inches of rushing water can knock you off your feet. Cars, including heavy trucks, can get swept away in less than two feet of moving water.
Even as the cleanup process begins, parents must constantly watch children and teenagers to prevent them from playing in or around water. It doesn't take long and it doesn't take much water for young children to drown. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in many cases, children who drowned had been out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.
Everyone, especially children and teens, are strongly advised to stay away from flood waters, control channels, rivers, streams and other waterways when there is flooding or heavy rain runoff after big storms, including on sunny days, to avoid potential dangers.
Contamination is another cause for concern. Flood waters may contain bacteria from human and animal wastes. While skin contact with flood water does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, the public should avoid direct contact with standing water when possible to lessen the chance for infection or illness. Chemical contamination of flood waters can also occur and contamination levels may be higher nearer to sources such as industrial locations. Skin and clothing should be washed thoroughly after contact with flood water.
For more information, visit the TDOH website at http://bit.ly/jhIUZ8.
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