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Ask a Maui Doctor: How Can I Control VOG Symptoms?

Posted April 8, 2017, 12:45 PM HST Updated April 8, 2017, 03:01 PM HST
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Doctors at Minit Medical answer some of the questions submitted by readers.

Each week, a doctor from Minit Medical Kahului or Lahaina will answer questions that have been submitted by readers. Submit your own medical related questions to our doctors at askthedoctor@mauinow.com.

Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask a Maui Doctor” column.

Widespread haze is in the forecast through Wednesday. This photo taken on Tuesday morning from Wailuku shows a nearly invisible Haleakala. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Q: The VOG has been so bad lately, what are the side effects and how can I control my symptoms?

A: Vog is what we call our tropical version of smog. It forms when volcanic dust combines with environmental gases and moisture in the presence of sunlight, creating a haze that hangs over the islands.

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Side effects of this natural air pollution consist mainly of allergic & respiratory ones. These include eye irritation, runny nose, congestion, sneezing, post-nasal drainage, scratchy sore throat, and cough. The difference between this and typical colds or other viral upper respiratory infections is that fever, chills, sweats & muscle aches are absent. Vog can also trigger asthma episodes, causing shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing and fatigue. The good news is that the general population of Hawai’i typically doesn’t experience the above symptoms unless vog levels are high; they are much more common in people with pre-existing conditions (environmental allergies, emphysema, asthma).

Unfortunately when vog is significant, there isn’t an effective measure that allows us to still enjoy nature. If you have allergies or asthma, definitely continue taking your meds – antihistamines & inhalers. The best remedy is to stay inside with closed windows and doors. Run the AC or a HEPA filter if you have one. Avoid or limit physical exertion – the nasal passages help filter vog, but exercise increases mouth breathing. You should also try to maintain adequate hydration.

**The contents of this article such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.  Reliance on any information provided by in this article is solely at your own risk.
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