St Vincent: Volcanic ash has caused a 25% increase in asthma cases in the Caribbean countries, which have faced a high density of ashfall. A type of particulate matter in air pollution mixed with water and tiny particles that form a kind of pollution called vog can travel miles downwind of the volcanic eruption, which is now affecting portions of the region.
According to Dr Harold Watson, consultant in the Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, asthma has increased post volcanic ash as “We’ve seen a 25% increase in cases.”
The primary concern of Volcanic ash is fine particles, “Even when you wear a mask, the particles can actually get in which causes congestion in breathing, heaviness in throat and tightness in their chest.”
The volcanic ash can be highly harmful to children, other adults and people with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exposure to high-density ash fall can trigger asthma attacks and cause coughing, wheezing, and respiratory irritation in people with sensitive Airways. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk factor becomes very high as symptoms include lungs related issues.
Tips to protect your lungs from Volcanic Ash:
- If you have lungs related disease, prepare your asthma or COPD travel pack as described.
- Always check the air quality monitoring network to assess the safety of the air quality in your vicinity each day.
- Try to stay inside your home until the ash settles down, with doors, windows and fireplace damper shut so that no ash can come inside the house. You can place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources, including drafty tape windows.
- You can also put air conditioners on the recirculation so that polluted air will not be moved inside the room or house, and clean air will circulate throughout the home or room. You can also use air cleaners for fresh air.
- People must take extra precaution for underage children and people above the age of 60 who are more susceptible to gases and smoke.
- Avoid driving. If it is necessary to drive or go outside, keep the air-conditioning on the recirculation mode so that there should be no ventilation of volcanic ash inside the car.
- Health officials highly recommend not count on a dust mask as an ordinary dust mask designed to filter out large particles will not help to filter more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Health officials most highly recommend a mask with an N-95 rating for protection against ash.