THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF VOLCANIC ASH
A guide for the public
This document has been prepared by the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN), Cities and Volcanoes Commission, GNS Science and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to promote the safety of those who experience volcanic ashfall. This guide explains the potential health effects of volcanic ash and gives details on how to protect yourself and your family in the event of a volcanic ash fall.
Eye irritation is a common health effect as pieces of grit can cause painful scratches in the front of the eye (corneal
abrasions) and conjunctivitis. Contact lens wearers need to be especially aware of this problem and leave out their lenses to
prevent corneal abrasion from occurring.
Common symptoms include:
- Eyes feeling as though there are foreign particles in
- Eyes becoming painful, itchy or bloodshot.
- Sticky discharge or tear
Corneal abrasions or scratches.
Acute conjunctivitis or the inflammation of the conjunctival sac that surrounds the eyeball due to the presence of ash, which leads to redness, burning of the eyes, and photosensitivity.
In fine-ash environments, wear goggles or corrective eyeglasses instead of contact lenses to protect eyes from irritation.
EYE FIRST AID
To minimize potential eye irritation:
- Wear sunglasses (wrap-around styles are best) or goggles. The best are swimmers goggles that fit tight around the eyes.
- Stay indoors when pollution levels are at their peak
- Flush eyes with cool water or eye wash
- Apply a cool compress to relieve discomfort
- Lubricating eye drops may help prevent soreness or itching
- Contact lens wearers should remove their lenses at the first sign of eye irritation and thoroughly clean them in their medicated cleaning solution
If symptoms persist you should seek advice from your doctor or optometry.
THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF VOLCANIC ASH (part 3 SKIN)