Healthy living

Volcanic ash health warning

Asthmatics advised to carry medication

The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) is reminding people with respiratory infections to carry their medication with them, as ash from the Icelandic volcanic plume is expected to land in parts of the UK today.

The concentration of particles which may reach ground level is likely to be low and should not cause serious harm and health effects are "likely to be short term."

However they advise that people with existing respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma may be more affected by the particles than others, and should make sure they carry any inhalers or other medications with them.

Anyone who notices symptoms such as "itchy or irritated eyes, runny nose, sore throat or dry cough, or notice a dusty haze in the air or can smell sulphur, rotten eggs, or a strong acidic smell," may wish to limit their activities outdoors or return indoors, they said in a statement.

Low concentrations of volcanic dust are also expected to land with the plume. Although the dust may contain sulphur dioxide, the HPA have said it is not expected to be a significant threat to public health.

The HPA and the Met Office are continuing to monitor the movement of the ash cloud over the UK.

Commenting on the volcanic ash cloud, Professor Malcolm Green from the British Lung Foundation said the ash cloud was unlikely to pose a health hazard to our lungs. "This is because the cloud is present high up in the atmosphere and not at ground level.

"However, we recommend anyone with a lung condition to carry their medication as a precaution."

Anyone concerned about the ash cloud can also contact the BLF Helpline on 0458 50 50 20 or Asthma UK's Adviceline on 0800 121 62 44.

This article was published on Fri 16 April 2010

Image © Jose Gil -

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