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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Keeping children safe during a flood

Flood waters present a serious threat to personal health and safety, and children can be particularly at risk. Follow these simple rules to make sure your children remain safe.

Floodwater areas

Never allow children to play in floodwater areas, and wash floodwater-contaminated toys with hot water or disinfect them before they are used. You should also wash your children's hands frequently (always before meals).

If your home has flooded

When returning to your home after a flood, be aware that flood water may contain sewage. Protect yourself and your children by following these steps: 

  • keep children and pets out of the affected area until clean up has been completed
  • very young children should avoid playing directly on timber floorboards or any damaged tiled floors if possible - be aware of the risk of injury from sharp edges on tiles or raised nails
  • clothing, bedding and other soft/fabric articles (including children's toys) should be put on a hot wash (60°C or the highest temperature indicated on manufacturer's instructions)
  • do not let young children play on affected grassed or paved areas until the area has been cleaned down and restored to its normal condition
  • ensure confined areas like garages or cellars are well ventilated and are not accessible to children and animals

Water for infants during flooding

Where the drinking water supply is either interrupted or contaminated, it is important to take precautions for formula-fed infants. Usually, communities affected by floodwater are provided with water bowsers (tankers holding uncontaminated water). In these circumstances there are three options for the use of water to make infant formula milk:

  • use bowser or bottled water, boiled and allowed to cool for no more than 30 minutes in a clean covered container - then follow the manufacturer's instructions on making up the feed
  • commercially ready-made formula milk may be used as an alternative to powdered feeds made up with bowser water

If neither of these options are possible because there is no energy to allow boiling, then:

  • bottled water (table, spring or mineral water) can be used unboiled to prepare baby feeds - but the prepared feed should then be used immediately
  • unboiled bowser water should not be used

The bottled water supplied to the public by the water company during flooding incident is suitable for making up infant formula. Parents with infants that are unwell with diarrhoea and vomiting should seek medical advice.

If the water company has advised that the domestic supply is unsafe for drinking then avoid using this for bathing infants. In this situation bowser water, or bottled water, are safe alternatives. A safe alternative to bathing is to use baby wipes for hand cleansing and washing infants.

Buying your own bottled water

If you buy your own bottled water, be aware that some natural mineral water may have a high sodium content. Look at the label for sodium or `Na’ and check its level is not higher than 200mg a litre. If it is, then try to use a different water. If no other water is available, then use this water for as short a time as possible. It is important to keep babies hydrated.

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