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Act Quickly to Beat Mold After a Flood

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 30, 2012 -- If you’re trying to clean up a house flooded by Hurricane Sandy, be aware that you’re in a race against mold and bacteria, which can grow quickly in damp environments.

Mold is especially dangerous for people with breathing problems caused by allergies or asthma. But high levels of mold can also cause problems for people who are relatively healthy. Symptoms of mold exposure include wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throats, flu-like aches and pains, and fatigue.

Surviving Superstorm Sandy

Safety tips for those facing power outages, flooding and other issues from Superstorm Sandy.


Mold isn’t the only threat from flooding. Bacteria may also be a problem if your house was soaked by sewage. Bacteria can cause dangerous gastrointestinal and skin infections.

That’s why it’s important to stop these pathogens before they take hold of your home.

“You’ve really got 24 to 36 hours to work with,” says Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, a nonprofit organization that wrote a guide to help residents clean up flooded homes after Hurricane Katrina.

The good news is that the faster you act, the more you may be able to save.

DIY Cleanup? Or Call a Pro?

The first thing to do is to pump out or soak up any standing water. But be careful: If you’ve got several feet of water in a basement, where fuse boxes and other electrical circuitry may be submerged, have emergency workers clear the space before you get to work.

If you have a lot of water in the house, Morley, who has been through two floods herself, says hiring help can be a good investment.

“I had water up to my ankles. My carpet was floating when I got home,” Morley says. “These restoration companies have all the heavy equipment that’s needed to dry out a place quickly. They bring in their big fans, their big dehumidifiers.”

You might also need a professional if your house was flooded with sewage, which has an unmistakable smell. Sewage is hazardous and best handled by someone who’s trained.

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