Health risks related to Yamuna overflow in Delhi; here’s what you can do

After heavy rains hit many parts of northern India, the nation’s capital has been facing a flood crisis, with water levels in the river yamuna reaching a record high – sinking more than 208 meters – on Thursday. As water levels have started to slowly drop, several parts of the city such as Kashmiri Gate, ITO and Rajghat are still reeling from waterlogging.
In such a condition, there is going to be an audience healthemergency if sufficient attention is not given. “There can be major health issues that can come up now as well as when the water level goes down,” says Dr. Manoj Sharma, senior internal medicine consultant at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj. Here are some potential health issues associated with this event:

Waterborne diseases

The flood waters of the Yamuna River can be contaminated with various pollutants including sewage, industrial waste and other harmful substances. This contamination increases the risk water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and gastroenteritis. Ingestion or contact with contaminated flood water can lead to these infections.

Vector-borne diseases

Flooding creates standing water, which becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever, malaria and chikungunya can spread rapidly during and after floods as the mosquito population proliferates. The increased presence of these disease-carrying insects increases the risk of epidemics.

Skin infections and dermatological problems

Direct contact with contaminated flood water can cause skin problems and infections. Open wounds or cuts that come into contact with polluted water are particularly vulnerable to infection.. Skin rashes, irritations and fungal infections can also occur due to prolonged exposure to dirty water and unsanitary conditions.

Impact on mental health

Floods can be a traumatic experience for individuals and communities. Displacement, loss of possessions and disruption of daily routines can cause significant stress and anxiety. The long-term psychological impact can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other mental health disorders.
Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founding Director of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, explains the following conditions:

Respiratory problems

Standing water can give off foul odors and promote the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, leading to respiratory problems and exacerbating existing conditions such as asthma and allergies. If you live near the overflowing river, keep your windows closed and use air purifiers to maintain indoor air quality. In case of persistent respiratory problems, consult a doctor.

Contaminated food

Floods can affect the security of food supplies. It can contaminate crops and cause foodborne illness if good hygienic practices are not followed when preparing food. Make sure food is properly cooked and stored in hygienic conditions. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before eating them.
Dr. Vishal Sehgal, President of Portea Medical (MBBS, DNB-Orthopaedics), shares the following potential health risks and how to prevent them:

Risk of electrocution

Flooding causes electrical hazards and the risk of electrocution. it is essential to exercise caution around electrical hazards, avoiding contact with power lines or submerged electrical equipment.


Cold water can induce hypothermia and high humidity levels contribute to the easy spread of respiratory infections. Adequate warm clothing should be worn to prevent hypothermia, and individuals should seek shelter. In case of chills or confusion, high temperature, a person should seek immediate medical attention.

animal bites

There is also an increased risk of bites from animals such as snakes. In flooding situations, it is good to provide shelter for animals, but avoid provoking or approaching unfamiliar animals. If bitten, clean the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention for evaluation, possible vaccination and tetanus prophylaxis.


To prevent these waterborne diseases from flooding, Dr. Kamal Verma, Senior Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, shares the following precautions:

  • Keep the areas around the house dry and avoid water accumulation.
  • Wear long-sleeved clothing, especially at night, to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
  • Avoid eating out junk food and packaged foods that may be contaminated.
  • Apply mosquito repellent creams and use mosquito nets at home to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Dr Divya Singh, Senior Surgeon, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Director, Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation:

  • Avoid exposing your mouth, nose and eyes to flood waters.
  • Boil water for drinking and food preparation.
  • Avoid walking in flooded or stagnant water.

Dr Hardik Sankhla, project coordinator at the National Health Authority:
“Drink safe water, practice good personal hygiene, avoid direct contact with flood waters, protect yourself against mosquitoes and follow official instructions. Prioritize your well-being by staying informed, taking necessary precautions, and seeking medical attention when necessary.

Dr Sabine Kapasi, Public Health Officer, United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination and Geneva:
“Stay informed and follow the instructions and guidelines provided by local authorities regarding evacuation, road closures and safety measures. Heed their advice on precautionary measures to ensure your general well-being. Stay alert, take precautions to protect you and your family, and seek prompt medical attention if you experience any flood-related health problems or symptoms.

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