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How Long Does It Take to Get Sick After Exposure to Sewage?

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If you have recently come into contact with water contaminated by sewage, you may be wondering how long it takes to get sick and what the potential health effects may be. In this section, we will explore the timeline of health effects that can occur after sewage exposure, including the immediate symptoms, short-term illnesses, and long-term health effects.

Understanding the effects of sewage exposure on your health is critical for prompt medical intervention and proper care. By recognizing the potential risks and the factors that can influence illness onset, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from any health complications that may arise.

How Long Does It Take to Get Sick After Exposure to Sewage?

Key Takeaways:

  • Exposure to contaminated water may cause short-term and long-term health effects.
  • Immediate symptoms of sewage exposure include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Short-term illnesses, such as skin infections and respiratory problems, can occur within days or weeks after exposure.
  • Long-term health effects, including chronic diseases, may develop years after exposure.
  • Factors such as the amount and duration of exposure and individual health and immune status can affect the timeline of illness onset.

Understanding Sewage Exposure Risks

When it comes to sewage exposure, there are numerous health hazards you should be aware of. Contact with sewage poses serious health risks that can lead to substantial health issues. These include:

  • Various types of infections such as E. coli, Salmonella, or Hepatitis A
  • Illnesses caused by exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, or other toxic chemicals
  • Skin rashes and irritation, especially in case of open wounds
  • Respiratory problems, if contaminated water droplets are ingested

Exposure to sewage, although less common, can also pose a threat to people’s mental health. Fear and anxiety due to exposure incidents can negatively impact people’s well-being.

In case of suspected exposure to sewage, contact with medical service providers is advised to minimize any health risks.

Immediate Health Effects of Sewage Exposure

When exposed to sewage, immediate health effects can manifest within mere hours of exposure. Contact with contaminated water can cause a range of symptoms that vary in severity and duration, depending on numerous factors:

Common Symptoms of Sewage Exposure Affected Areas
Nausea and vomiting Gastrointestinal tract
Diarrhea Gastrointestinal tract
Skin rashes or irritation Skin contact areas
Eye and ear irritation Face, eyes, or ears
Respiratory problems Lungs and airways
Ear infections Ears

In severe cases, exposure to sewage can lead to more severe symptoms, such as fever, headache, and muscle aches. If you experience any of these symptoms after exposure to sewage, prompt medical attention is recommended.

It’s crucial to note that these immediate health effects can be especially dangerous for individuals with weakened immune systems, as they may be more susceptible to contracting serious illnesses, such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever, or parasitic infections.

Short-Term Illnesses After Sewage Exposure

Exposure to sewage-contaminated water can result in various short-term illnesses with specific symptoms and timelines. Short-term illnesses from sewage exposure can last up to three weeks, and the severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the type of bacteria or virus in the sewage.

Short-Term Illness Timeframe Symptoms
Gastroenteritis Within 1-2 days of exposure Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever
Hepatitis A 2-6 weeks after exposure Abdominal pain, jaundice, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever
E. coli Infection 1-8 days after exposure Diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever
Shigellosis 1-7 days after exposure Abdominal cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever
Salmonellosis 12-72 hours after exposure Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms after sewage exposure, seek medical attention immediately. Prompt treatment can help alleviate symptoms and prevent the progression of illnesses.

Note: This table provides an overview of some short-term illnesses that can result from sewage exposure but is not meant to be exhaustive. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about your health after sewage exposure.

Longer-Term Health Effects

Taking care of your health after sewage exposure is crucial to avoid potential long-term health effects, such as chronic illnesses and diseases. The severity of long-term illnesses can vary, and they may arise even months after initial exposure. Therefore, maintaining vigilance and monitoring your health is essential to detect any potential symptoms early.

The most common long-term health effects of sewage exposure include respiratory problems, skin diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders. Exposure to sewage-contaminated water can lead to chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Furthermore, it can also cause skin irritations and infections like eczema, dermatitis, and bacterial infections. Long-term exposure to contaminated water can also impair your digestive system, leading to chronic diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and other gastrointestinal disorders.

In rare cases, prolonged exposure to sewage may even cause life-threatening illnesses like cancer and organ damage. In a 2018 study, researchers found that long-term exposure to sewage increased the risk of bladder and colorectal cancers by up to 40%. It can also cause damage to vital organs like the liver and kidneys, leading to organ failure and other severe complications.

To prevent these long-term health effects, it’s crucial to minimize your exposure to sewage and seek medical attention immediately if you notice any symptoms. Avoid swimming in contaminated water, wear protective gear when necessary, and always maintain proper hygiene practices to reduce the risk of exposure.

Factors Influencing the Onset of Illnesses

While the timeframe for illness after sewage exposure can vary, several factors can influence the onset of illnesses.

One of the most significant variables is the amount of exposure you experience. The longer you are exposed to contaminated water, the higher your risk of becoming ill. Additionally, the concentration of pathogens in the water can have a significant impact on the time it takes for symptoms to develop.

Your immune system also plays a crucial role in determining how quickly you become sick after sewage exposure. If you have a weakened immune system due to a pre-existing condition or medication, you may be more susceptible to illness and experience symptoms sooner after exposure.

Other factors that can influence illness onset include age, gender, overall health, and any pre-existing medical conditions.

To better understand how these factors can affect the timeline of health effects, refer to the table below:

Factors Effect on Illness Onset
Amount of exposure Longer exposure leads to a higher risk of illness
Concentration of pathogens Higher concentrations lead to faster symptom development
Immune system health Weaker immune system can cause quicker onset of symptoms
Age and gender Children and the elderly are more susceptible to illness, and women may experience symptoms sooner than men
Pre-existing medical conditions Those with certain medical conditions are more vulnerable to illness

By understanding these factors, you can better prepare for potential illness after sewage exposure and take appropriate precautions to minimize your risk. If you experience any symptoms of illness, seek medical attention promptly.


It is essential to be aware of the potential health risks associated with exposure to sewage and the timeline of illnesses that may arise as a result. By familiarizing yourself with the immediate and long-term health effects, short-term illnesses, and factors that can influence illness onset, you can take necessary precautions to safeguard your health.

If you experience symptoms of illness after contact with sewage, seek medical attention promptly. A healthcare professional can help diagnose any potential health complications and provide proper treatment. Remember to prioritize your well-being and stay informed to minimize the risks associated with sewage exposure.


What are the potential health risks of sewage exposure?

Sewage exposure can pose various health risks, including but not limited to bacterial and viral infections, gastrointestinal issues, skin irritations, and respiratory problems.

What are the immediate health effects of sewage exposure?

Immediate health effects of sewage exposure can include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, eye irritation, and respiratory difficulties.

What short-term illnesses can occur after sewage exposure?

Short-term illnesses that may manifest after sewage exposure include gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and skin infections.

Can sewage exposure lead to long-term health effects?

Yes, sewage exposure has the potential to cause long-term health effects, including chronic respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, liver or kidney damage, and immune system dysfunction.

Are there factors that can influence the onset of illnesses after sewage exposure?

Yes, several factors can influence the onset of illnesses post-sewage exposure. These factors include the duration and intensity of exposure, individual immune system health, age, pre-existing medical conditions, and the presence of any open wounds or cuts.

What should I do if I suspect health complications after contact with sewage?

If you suspect any health complications after coming into contact with sewage, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly. Contact a healthcare professional who can evaluate your symptoms and provide appropriate treatment or guidance.

Denver Clean-up & Restoration Services

With over 150 years of combined experience, the Colorado Cleanup Services, Inc. team has the knowledge, skill, and commitment necessary to handle any emergency cleanup services you may require. From flood and fire damage restoration to sewage backup, and coronavirus cleanup services in Denver, CO, you can always turn to us when you need deep, disinfecting cleaning for your home or business.

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