The medical effects of inhaling sulfur from the ashfall coming from the spewing La Soufriere volcano, which has erupted in St Vincent could range from acute to chronic.
In an interview, Chief Medical Officer of Barbados, Dr Kenneth George, said that persons who are exposed to ash for long periods can develop chronic lung disease.
However, Dr George said while it was likely that people in St. Vincent could be chronically affected; he does not believe this would be the experience in Barbados.
“Persons may be more susceptible to acute disease and not chronic disease,” he said.
“But the general advice is that if you are unsure stay indoors. It is suggested that you keep your windows and doors closed because you don’t want the ash to come inside the house. The other thing is that mask wearing is extremely important on this occasion because we are in a COVID environment and the mask will also protect you from harmful dust,” Dr George added.
The Chief Medical Officer informed that he received several reports that persons took the risk and went out exercising when the ashfall was coming down significantly. He said this triggered him to issue a notice asking persons to stay indoors and only venture out if absolutely necessary.
“If you need to be outdoors, you need to protect yourselves,” he said.
Those suffering with itchy, watery, red eyes, Dr George said they should remove themselves from the noxious area and rinse their eyes with water which usually settle the allergies from acting up.
“The challenge is you don’t want individuals to be exposed and later have an escalated problem requiring them to seek medical attention. Our Queen Elizabeth Hospital is already overburdened and we certainly don’t want unnecessary cases to be interacting with the hospital. So try to manage yourselves at home. That’s why when I indicated you are to stay home it was pointing in the direction of protecting yourselves,” he said.
Dr George said those working outdoors should wear long sleeved clothing, appropriate booths, trousers, and goggles to protect eyes, while wearing a mask and social distancing, to avoid getting sick on the job. (AH)