Many people fantasize about moving to or vacationing in Hawaii. However, those with pre-existing respiratory conditions and visiting the Island of Hawaii (also known as the Big Island) may experience some health issues.
According to the State of Hawaii website, ʺvog is a term that refers to volcanic smog. Vog becomes thicker or lighter depending upon the amount of emissions from Kilauea volcano, the direction and amount of wind, and other weather conditions. People with pre-existing respiratory conditions are more prone to adverse effects of vog.ʺ
Possible health issues related to vog may include:
• Breathing difficulties
• Increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments
• Watery eyes
• Sore throat
Vog conditions mainly exist in the following areas of Hawaii:
• Volcano Village to Hilo
• Kailua-Kona to Ocean View
As a frequent traveler to the Big Island, I can offer you some suggestions of things you can do to protect yourself from vog. These tips are compiled from the Kona and State of Hawaii websites:
• Monitor vog conditions daily. Call the Department of Health’s toll-free VOG help line at 866-767-5044 for daily updates on vog levels.
• Avoid heavy physical activity.
• Stay indoors.
• Close windows at night.
• Stay hydrated. Drink bottled water or hot tea.
• Keep any respiratory and heart medications you use handy. Keep your medication refilled and use your daily (controller) medication as prescribed.
• Have your emergency or evacuation medications available. If you don't have any medications, but feel you might need them, call your physician.
• Drink lots of fluids to loosen mucus and clear lungs. Hot tea may be especially good.
• Don't overexert yourself when vog levels are high. Even better, take it easy.
• Don't smoke and avoid people smoking during vog episodes.
• Purchase indoor plants (especially spider plants) may help clean the air.
• You also can try hanging up sheets that have been soaked in a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda to one liter of water (which can help trap acid aerosols and gases.)
• Respirators or wet handkerchiefs may help if vog levels are very high, but may hurt individuals with pre-existing respiratory or heart ailments, due to increased breathing resistance and, therefore, increased stress. Consult your doctor about your state of health, and consult an industrial hygienist about respirators.
Big Island Vog Index. KONAWEB - An Online Resource for the Big Island & Kona, Hawaii. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from http://www.konaweb.com/vog/index.shtml#WHATTODO
Coping with vog. University of Hawaii at Hilo. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~nat_haz/volcanoes/vog.php
Health Effects of Vog. State of Hawaii. Retrieved March 4, 2012, from http://www.hawaii.gov/gov/vog/health-effects.html
Vog . State of Hawaii. Retrieved March 4, 2012, from http://www.hawaii.gov/gov/vog
Vog: A Volcanic Hazard. USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/1996/96_05_29.html
Reviewed March 6, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith