By: Lorraine E. McKinney, D.P.M., AANI Guest Columnist
Hurricane Harvey came through the Gulf of Mexico, turned into a tropical storm, and dropped a record amount of rain on our low lying Houston streets and neighborhoods. The drenching, constant rain caused major flooding in our area. We had so much rain that one week later, we are still inundated with flood water in some areas while clean-up begins in other areas of town. With a great do-it-yourself spirit, we are tasked with removing drywall and wet carpet, attempting to get our homes and lives back on track.
We must remember to protect ourselves during the clean-up process. The stagnant flood water harbors many forms of bacteria and other organisms, including tetanus. What is tetanus? It is caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani, a naturally occurring organism in soil, manure, and dust. This bacteria is transferred into the water, as flood waters rise. If you are cut with a rusty nail or other metal object, a tetanus booster shot would be necessary, if you have not had your boosters regularly (usually every 10 years). However, if you do not have any cuts or open skin areas, then you will not need a tetanus booster. For specific instances, seek care from your doctor, who can determine if and when a tetanus booster is needed.
Gloves and face masks are common protective gear, however shoes are important as well. Pursuing a clean-up project of a flood infested home should not include flip flops or sandals as foot wear. Sturdy shoes with firm thick soles, preferably work boots, are better to wear with proper socks to better protect your feet.
If you or someone you know has an open wound, cut, or sore, and had to walk through the flood water, it is important to visit the doctor. Normally wounds in treatment are to be kept clean with proper gauze or other dressing. However, if that dressing was soiled by the flood water, it must be cared for immediately. Wounds not cared for properly can lead to further infection, amputation, sepsis, or death. Take care of yourself and seek assistance if you need help. Protect yourself from puncture wounds or cuts to your hands and feet. We are Houston Strong and will prevail!
A native Houstonian and hurricane survivor, Dr. McKinney has served the foot care needs of patients in the Greater Houston area for over 10 years. She may be contacted by visiting www.footandsole.com.