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Understanding the Adverse Impact of Floodwater on Your Skin & Hair

Healthcare Professional November 30, 2021

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Floods are traumatizing and can cause more trouble for your health. They can induce serious, sometimes chronic, health problems. Floodwaters carry infectious debris, from sewage water to massive amounts of chemicals released by factories.

It doesn't come as a surprise when you develop skin and hair disorders post-contact. Water bodies are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects that are responsible for waterborne diseases.

When exposed to these contaminated water bodies, two of your most susceptible organs of the integumentary system, hair and skin, are at significant risk of damage.

You seldom prepare yourself for a catastrophic event, such as floods and other natural calamities. So naturally, when encountered with one, you are clueless about minimizing the effects of the crisis.

Luckily, there are a few steps you can take for immediate as well as long-term relief. This inclusive guide will help you navigate yourself to identify the problems and restore the health of your skin and hair.

What Can Floodwater Do to Your Skin and Hair?

The damage caused by floodwaters can be long-lasting. Here are some commonly observed skin and hair problems post-floods.

Skin Problems

  1. Cellulitis One of the most typically found skin disorders is cellulitis, a painful bacterial infection that spreads rapidly, leaving the skin red and swollen. Cellulitis is mainly caused by bacteria that enter the skin through cuts and wounds. It is also possible to develop this infection through animal bites, which can affect your limbs.
  2. Contact dermatitis (skin) A skin rash caused by infected items, contact dermatitis, is another common skin problem that develops after contact with toxic substances. Contact dermatitis makes your skin feel itchy and flaky. The dryness can also lead to rashes and blisters, as well as cause severe pain.
  3. Fungal skin infections Fungal infections happen when you spend too much time in contaminated water, air, or soil. So, it is not unusual for you to contract such an infection after encountering a flood. Conditions such as athlete's foot, yeast infection, and ringworm are frequent fungal skin infections found among disaster relief patients.
  4. Eczema Eczema, also known as atop dermatitis, makes your skin red and itchy. Since floodwaters strip off the protective layer of your skin, thus weakening its ability to retain moisture and protect you from bacteria decreases. And that is why eczema can also make your skin dry, flaky, and swollen.
  5. Scabies Considered a highly contagious skin infection, scabies is caused by a microscopic termite that feeds on the skin. If you are allergic to mites and waste, you are vulnerable to scabies. In severe cases, scabies can also turn your skin into a thick crusty one, which is a condition known as crusted scabies.


  1. Hair Loss Floodwater contains magnesium. While small magnesium concentrations are good for your hair, excessive magnesium can lead to problems, such as hair loss and dry hair.
  2. Dandruff Malassezia, a yeast-like fungus, causes dandruff. Although it is present on the scalp of most adults, it is not active. Since floodwaters contain yeast, there is a high possibility for dandruff to occur easily.
  3. Dry scalp Floodwater washes away the natural oils of your scalp, leaving it dry and flaky. The loss of oils can also cause inflammation and redness on your scalp.
  4. Contact dermatitis (hair) Contact dermatitis can occur in hair, too. Contact dermatitis is usually caused due to allergic reactions because of certain ingredients in hair dyes. Floodwaters may contain agricultural wastes, such as concentrations of fertilizers and pesticides, that can induce contact dermatitis. Since this type of waste are contains excessive fertilizers and pesticides, it can affect your hair adversely.

What Causes Floodwater to Damage Your Skin and Hair?

Floodwater is a mixture of waste and other contaminated substances. It is more than just hard water, which is equally harmful. Besides clay and soil, floodwater contains ammonia.

Ammonia Floodwater

Ammonia can contaminate the floodwater directly through nitrogenous wastes, air deposition, and loose agricultural remains. If we have learned anything from advertisements for hair color, ammonia is extremely bad for our hair. When you expose your hair to ammonia for a long time, it can result in dry and brittle hair.

Ammonia can also irritate your skin leading to inflammation. Additionally, floodwaters contain urea, which is a component of urine. While urea may be used for manufacturing cosmetics, it is only when used in small quantities that it poses no harm.

Overexposure to urea can increase sensitivity in your skin. Furthermore, a study on flooding suggests that floodwater contains a high concentration of copper, zinc, and lead, increasing its microbial contamination. Zinc can lead to peeling of your skin, redness and itchiness, rash, and blisters.

Hair products containing information have been banned in the United States due to their many side effects. Furthermore, excessive copper can decrease the melanin levels in your hair and result in premature greying.

Lastly, a study also confirmed that the risk of skin diseases increases with age. The older you are, the more likely you will experience severe skin-related issues after being exposed to floodwater.

How to Clean Up After a Flood to Minimize Damage?

Damage control is the only way to minimize the effects of floodwater on your skin and hair. Read on to know what you should do before seeking medical help.


After a flood, the first thing you must do is wash your hands with soap. You must sanitize your hands before cleaning up anything else to avoid getting an infection by any waterborne diseases.

Getting access to clean water is also essential. According to OSHA, bottled water is the best option if you can't get a hold of clean water. You can also use water that has been boiled for at least ten minutes to ensure it is safe enough to be used.


Bathing is the next step toward cleaning up after a flood to minimize damage. Avoid swallowing the water while taking a bath as you might face risks of consuming harmful pollutants. Similarly, ensure that you close your eyes while bathing to avoid letting the water get in them.

It is recommended to use herbal shampoo to wash your hair. Since you have already been exposed to chemicals, it is better to steer clear of chemical-based shampoos.

Similarly, use herbal soaps that suit your skin to wash off the microbial contaminants from your skin. Lastly, brush your teeth only after taking a bath. Doing this will reduce the risk of swallowing bacteria and prevent any infections from spreading.

Treat Open Wounds

Ensure to treat any open wounds immediately after taking a bath. Use an antiseptic liquid to make sure the injuries are clean. And most importantly, avoid coming in contact with floodwater once you have treated the wounds as it can induce further infection.


Most skin problems emerge due to dryness. Provide your hair and skin with enough moisture. This is an important step because the drier your skin, the more it will burn, become itchy and develop rashes.

To prevent that from happening, you can use any naturally obtained lotion that contains fewer chemicals. You can also use a hydrating serum to reduce the dryness in your hair.

Consult a Specialist

Seek medical help immediately after cleaning up. Visit a dermatologist if you feel you need special attention or further treatment for skin-related irritation. Alternatively, seek a trichologist to treat any hair or scalp problems caused by the floodwater.

Maintaining the Health of Your Skin and Hair

Floodwater is hazardous to your overall health. And since your hair and skin are the only two organs you cannot prevent from getting exposed to, you need to give your utmost care and attention to them.

Get yourself into the habit of drinking enough water to keep your skin and hair healthy and hydrated. Moisturize your skin twice a day, after taking a shower and before going to bed.

Restore the oil in your scalp by regularly using a naturally-sourced oil and washing your hair thrice a week. Do not forget to use a serum after each wash to ensure your hair feels and appears healthy. Lastly, eat right to heal from the inside.

Final Step

Avoid touching anyone who has not sanitized themselves. Since you are still vulnerable even after doing all of the above, touching pollutants again may put you at risk of contamination or even magnify your problems.

Floods are no doubt a serious tragedy, but with the right awareness and resources with you, you can deal with them in an effective manner. Visit the Medi-line website to learn more.

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