What are they, and who’s most affected by them?


What are they, and who’s most affected by them?


A temporary overflowing of a large amount of water, especially over typically dry land

Flood types

Flash floods, storm surges, coastal floods, debris flows, ice/debris jams, snowmelt, dry wash, dam and levee failures

Flood warnings

A watch: flood or flash flood is possible; a warning: flooding or flash flooding is occurring or will occur soon

Rising average temperatures around the globe are linked to widespread changes in weather patterns, including storms forming in a warmer atmosphere. These storms may produce heavier rainfall, which can lead to flooding.

We have always had floods, but now because of climate change, we’re seeing floods that are less natural and more disastrous.

“We have always had floods, but now because of climate change, we’re seeing floods that are less natural and more disastrous,” explained Colin Cave, MD, medical director for external affairs, government relations, and community health, Kaiser Permanente in Oregon.

There are immediate health dangers from floodwater, but the danger doesn’t end when floodwaters recede. According to Dr. Cave, “Mosquito borne infections, breathing issues from mold, loss of housing and income, and anxiety and depression are health-related effects that can happen in the weeks or months after a flooding event.”

Recognize flooding health hazards

Be aware of contaminants

Floodwater may contain sewage and chemicals that can cause sickness. Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause:

  • Wound infections
  • Skin rash
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Tetanus

Polluted drinking water can lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases like typhoid, hepatitis A, and cholera.

Guard against hypothermia

Hypothermia means that your body loses heat faster than it can make heat. You can get it if you spend time in cold air, water, wind, or rain.


Symptoms: Shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness

Prevent injuries

Floodwater may contain sharp debris, fallen trees, downed power lines, and snakes and other biting animals.

Stop mold growth

Dry your home and belongings within 24 to 48 hours after a flood if you can. Keep wet areas well-ventilated. Assume you have mold growth if your home or its contents are still wet after 2 days. Mold can affect indoor air quality and can cause coughing, wheezing, and lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia.

Prevent mosquito bites

Standing water may increase the hatching of mosquito eggs. Some mosquitos can spread viruses and diseases like Zika, malaria, dengue, and West Nile. Use insect repellents and take steps to control mosquitos inside and outside your home.

Monitor your mental health

The stress brought on by a flooding event and its aftermath can lead to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and sleep disturbances.

Are you or a family member at a higher risk?

Protect yourself and your family

Determine your risk Use the FEMA flood map tool to determine the flood risk for your area. Sign up for emergency alerts from your local government officials. People in densely populated areas are at risk due to runoff from buildings, highways, driveways, and parking lots.
Create a flood plan Determine your best protection based on the type of flooding. For sudden flash floods, establish a quickly accessible place on higher ground. Plan a designated meeting place for family members if you get separated.
Prepare a go bag Pack an easy-to-carry emergency survival kit filled with basic supplies for yourself and your family. Be sure to include prescription medications and other medical supplies you may need.
Stay informed and know when to evacuate Listen to the Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio, or any local alerting system for up-to-date emergency information. If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Stay off bridges, which can quickly be washed away.
Turn around, don’t drown Never walk, swim, or drive through floodwaters. Six inches of moving water can knock you down, and 1 foot of moving water can sweep your car away.
Protect your property Floods can damage buildings and roads, cause power outages, and create landslides. Move valued items to higher ground. Clean out drains and gutters and install check valves on pipes. For further protection, obtain flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Find resources

Sign up for emergency alerts in your area. State emergency management offices for Kaiser Permanente areas are:

If you are unable to afford your weatherization expenses contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for help.

Find assistance programs in your area using the Kaiser Permanente Community Support Hub,

The American Red Cross has more tips on what you should do before, during, and after flooding.


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