When the dam levels reach 13.5%, the city will begin to shut down its reticulation system in residential areas, which essentially means the taps will run dry. Day Zero, currently earmarked for mid-May 2018, has serious ramifications for the city, which has already been declared a disaster area and it’s close to 4 million residents.
‘We have been inundated with advice about water saving tips,’ says Gerhard Van Emmenis, Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund, ‘and, as a medical scheme entrusted with taking care of our members wellbeing, we felt compelled to do our bit to help our members and the citizens of Cape Town with advice around health issues during a drought, especially for the more vulnerable such as infants and the elderly.
‘We have researched the potential health risks in the time of a water crisis and compiled easy to follow guidelines. Even before taps are turned off, when clean drinking water is not readily available there is a high risk of some diseases which, as a health care community, we need to anticipate and mitigate.’
In the case of infants (aged under 3 years), advice from the Bonitas Babyline team is as follows:
- Care should be taken to adequately sterilise bottles and pacifiers. In the current heat, any formula or milk left in the bottle after a feed should be discarded if not consumed immediately. Parents should take care to make just enough for baby for each feed
- Make sure your child has enough water to drink and is well hydrated. Children often do not realise they are thirsty and play in the heat. Ensure your child drinks water often
- With water restrictions, children are prone to bacterial and fungal infections of the skin. Ensuring the skin is cleaned as thoroughly as possible every day will help prevent these infections
- The single biggest threat to child health with water restrictions is from gastro-enteritis. Make sure food is prepared as hygienically as possible and reduce the amount of bought cold foods and salads in the child’s diet. Cooked foods served fresh are best.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay healthy ahead of the taps being turned off
- Boil water or use water purification tablets for the rain water we are able to capture. However, preferably use this for flushing the toilet, not for drinking.
- Use Milton to add to water to wash raw veggies – with the listeriosis outbreak as well as the possibility of a Hepatitis A outbreak we can’t afford not to wash our fresh produce!
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or wet wipes to keep hands clean (and hand cream because that stuff gets pretty harsh after a while!).
- Bicarb and vinegar are excellent for cleaning especially as it doesn’t destroy water for grey use.
- Dodgy tummy prep: Rehydrate, probiotics and medicine for stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Use vinegar in the toilet and drains to help with any odours and bacteria.
- Clean with micro-fibre cloths or rags as sponges become unsanitary. It’s far easier to clean cloths and hanging them up immediately can delay them smelling. You can also throw rags away. Alternatively wipe down surfaces using wet wipes.
- Stock up on bottled water exclusively for drinking while water stations are being sorted out. The recommendation is 5 litres a day and to have four days’ worth of fresh water per person. Do not drink non-potable water (gray water). This water should also not be used for cooking.
- Vaccinate against Hepatitis A if you have never been vaccinated (especially healthcare workers, communal food handlers, patients in long-term care facilities and immune-compromised people.)
- Mental illnesses such as increased anxiety, depression and even suicide can be managed with the right help.
If you, your family and especially your infant have any of the above symptoms, visit your doctor for an assessment sooner rather than later.
‘We know it is a difficult time for Capetonians’ says Van Emmenis, ‘it is stressful trying to save as much water as possible while trying to remain healthy through this time. But help is at hand, the local authorities and medical professionals are on high alert and standby to assist and, for Bonitas members, we also have our Babyline – 24-hour children’s health advice line manned by paediatric trained registered nurses. They are on the other side of the phone to assist with any parental concerns, or health related issues, 24/7, 365 days of the year.’
The Babyline service is available to members across all Bonitas plans, for children under 3 years. Parents simply need to call the Babyline on 0860 999 121.