What to do? Health threat for Hawaii Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai. HMSA warns residents

What to do? Health threat for Hawaii Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai. HMSA warns residents

Planning to visit Hawaii? The Hawaii travel and tourism industry is playing down a health threat to all Hawaiian Islands that is very real. It includes not only the Island of Hawaii but Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu with its tourism center Waikiki and Kauai. The danger of causing a threat to the health of tourists and locals on all Hawaiian Islands is caused by the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii Island. The volcano has been blowing off toxic steam and releasing lava for a week. There are real signs it could soon explode and widen the disaster.

Hawaii’s largest health insurance provider HMSA today alerted all their clients to this danger and emailed an emergency message by Dr. Jeffrey Kam speaking for Straub Clinic.

The immediate danger caused the Volcanoes National Park to close as of today because of the threat. Scientists think conditions could be right for a major explosion within a few days. The last time that happened was in 1924 when it blasted rock and ash more than five miles into the air.

Geologists are warning a possible explosion at the summit of Kilauea could be the largest in nearly 100 years, hurling boulders the size of refrigerators. The heavy clouds of smoke coming from the main crater on Wednesday were likely triggered by a rock fall from the crater walls.

The beauty of the lava shows Madam Pele creates is awe-inspiring, but for those with asthma or other lung conditions, the byproduct of these natural fire displays can be bothersome to their health.

This byproduct is Vog. Vog is a form of air pollution that results when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight. The word is a portmanteau of the words “volcanic”, “smog”, and “fog”.

Vog can not only appear on Hawaii Island and close to an erupting volcano, but hundreds of miles away. Therefore vog is a threat to all Hawaiian Islands, including Maui, Oahu with Waikiki as the center of tourism, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.

Prevalence of Asthma in Hawaii

In Hawaii, adults ages 18-24 have the highest rate of asthma, with women more likely to suffer from the condition than men.

Other statewide statistics include the following:

  • There is a higher rate of childhood asthma in boys than in girls.
  • About 4.3 percent of Native Hawaiians have asthma, with children having the highest rates.
  • Native Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians have the highest asthma rates compared to other ethnic groups.
  • Kauai has the highest prevalence of asthma compared to other islands.

What Happens During an Asthma Attack?

During an asthma attack, the inside lining of your breathing tubes becomes swollen and inflamed. The outer muscle layer surrounding the breathing tubes also constricts, and cells inside the tubes make more mucous.

The end result is that the diameter of your breathing tubes becomes smaller and gets plugged with mucous, making it very hard to move air in and out through these smaller breathing tubes.

Think of it like trying to breathe through a straw.

The most common symptoms of asthma are:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest congestion or pain.
  • Disrupted sleep due to difficulty breathing or coughing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Prolonged coughing associated with colds.

Volcanic smog, more commonly referred to as vog, is a hazy mixture formed when sulfur dioxide gas and other fine particulate matter from an active volcano interact with oxygen in the air.

Sulfur dioxide, or SO2, can irritate the throat, nose and airways, causing coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or a feeling of tightness around the chest.

For asthma sufferers, it has the potential to trigger asthma attacks.

According to Straub Medical Center Allergist Dr. Jeffrey Kam, the effects of vog can set in quickly and are especially harmful to children, older adults and people with respiratory conditions. Dr. Jeffrey C. Kam joined Straub in 1994. Board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Pediatrics, his special interests include asthma, nasal and eye allergies, eczema, anaphylaxis, and food, insect sting and drug allergies.

Luckily, there are measures you can take to stay healthy despite voggy conditions.

Watch the video below for Kam’s tips on what to do when vog rolls in.


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