Volcanic ash advice for lung patients issued by HPA

People with lung conditions may experience symptom exacerbations as a result of the volcanic ash and may want to limit their time outside, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and British Lung Foundation have warned.

Satellite image of the ash cloud (grey, centre) from Eyjafjallajokull glacier (Photograph: SPL)
Satellite image of the ash cloud (grey, centre) from Eyjafjallajokull glacier (Photograph: SPL)

The HPA has said it would be sensible for people with existing respiratory conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, to ensure they keep their inhalers or other medications with them. If they experience symptoms of irritation that they should limit their activities outdoors or return indoors.

The concentration of particles from the Icelandic volcanic plume reaching ground level is likely to be low and should not cause serious harm, the HPA said. Small quantities of volcanic ash from the  eruption beneath the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier could float back into the air in windy conditions, it added.

If people are outside and notice symptoms such as itchy or irritated eyes, runny nose, sore throat or dry cough, or if they notice a dusty haze in the air or can smell sulphur, rotten eggs, or a strong acidic smell, they may wish to limit their activities outdoors or return indoors, the HPA said. But any such health effects are likely to be short term, it added.

The British Lung Foundation is advising people with a lung condition in affected areas to carry their medication as a precaution as they may experience short-term worsening of symptoms. However the British Lung Foundation stresses that the ash does not pose a significant health risk to the public.

The Anthony Nolan Trust has warned that the air travel ban is putting the lives of people waiting for bone marrow transplants at risk. In the UK, 16 bone marrow treatments scheduled over recent days have not taken place. The charity, which arranges the worldwide transport of bone marrow, said couriers have had to use trains and ferries to enter the UK.

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