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Vog abides till trades arrive

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For asthma sufferers and others, relief from the vog blanketing much of the state won’t come sooner than Wednesday, the National Weather Service says.

"As long as the winds are coming out of the southeast, we have the possibility of vog," said Weather Service lead forecaster Tim Craig. "If winds are light and variable with no prevailing direction, vog will create a big puddle and spread out over all the islands."

Winds were light out of the southeast yesterday, and that is likely to continue through the weekend and the first half of the workweek, Craig said.

Kilauea Volcano continues to spew roughly 1,212.5 tons of gas per day, most of it sulfur dioxide.

"But by the time it gets to Oahu, it’s more a haze of tiny particles and acidic droplets rather than sulfur dioxide gas," said geologist Janet Babb with the U.S. Geologic Survey at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

EASING THE DISCOMFORT

Tips for those with asthma and other respiratory ailments:

» Do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.

» Drink plenty of fluids to loosen mucus and help you cough.

» Stay indoors and use an air conditioner, if possible.

» Keep needed medications close at hand.

» Continue to take your medications as directed.

» Avoid people who have colds or lung infections.

» Assume that your lung condition might deteriorate during exposure. Contact a physician as soon as problems develop. Do not allow a respiratory condition to linger, especially if there is a high concentration of sulfur dioxide.

» A paper, gauze or nontoxic dust mask might help. Moistening the mask with a solution of baking soda and water might improve the filtration. If you find it more difficult to breathe with the mask on, don’t use it.

» Longer-term exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide gas and particles can cause respiratory illness and can aggravate existing heart disease. It can even cause premature death.

Source: American Lung Association

 

Dr. Carl Lehman, a Honolulu allergist, says about 10 percent of asthmatics are extremely sensitive to New Year’s Eve fireworks smoke and vog. "It’s the same sulfur," he said.

Studies have shown that those sensitive to sulfites, which are found in red wine and other food, have received some relief with large doses of vitamins C and B6. Lehman said he gives injections of those vitamins to patients with severe asthma symptoms before New Year’s Eve and for the effects of vog. The shots seem to provide relief, he said.

Dr. Jeffrey Kam, an allergist and immunologist with Straub Clinic & Hospital, said he has seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in vog-related patient visits this week.

"Everyone has been complaining of increased breathing difficulties, nasal allergies, suffering some sore throat," he said. "Asthmatics are having wheezing, coughing, chest congestion."

Those with nasal allergies are experiencing irritated eyes, irritated throat, burning nose, postnasal drips and sneezing, Kam said.

"It’s almost like the New Year’s Eve spiel," he said. "Stay indoors. Fans are not helpful. The worst thing is blowing particles at you."

For those having trouble breathing, Kam recommends staying indoors in an air-conditioned environment or at least using an air filter.

Kam recommends asthmatics carry their inhalers with them and use HEPA filter masks if they need to go outdoors.

Even people without allergies are having more problems with watery eyes and nasal problems, Kam said.

He recommends over-the-counter saline nasal sprays and eye drops to rinse out the eyes and nose.

Avoiding strenuous activity is key for severe asthmatics, he said.

For people who have signed up for Monday’s Great Aloha Run, Kam has some advice.

"They need to stay hydrated," he said. "Bring eye drops and a nasal saline to rinse eyes and nostrils out as the race progresses."

The American Lung Association in Hawaii has taken a number of calls from mainlanders who are planning to visit Hawaii but are concerned about the vog.

Lehman cautions asthmatics visiting Kilauea to carry their inhalers, citing a case about 10 years ago of a woman who started wheezing on a trail there. "She asked her friend to get her inhaler, but by the time she came back, she was dead," he said.

 

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