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Vog Health Alert: Hawaii
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10 Health Tips for VOG  

Ever stop and think about the forces that formed all the Hawaiian islands?  

We wouldn't have ground to stand on in Hawaii if it weren't for volcanoes.  

Hawaii's active volcanoes and vents also pump out tons of toxic gases every day, but are mostly swept to sea by Hawaii's steady trade winds.  

But when the air is still, or Kona weather prevails,  sunsets turn strange colors, the air is metallic and a heavy hanging gray haze gathers  in the air while some people seem in a vog daze.  Flowers may wilt and temper's may flare, too much of Pele's perfume can do more then make your eyes water.


VOG has adverse health effects on humans, plants and animals.

For the elderly,  young children, people with compromised immune systems, or sensitive lung, liver, or heart conditions or depression, Vog can be a serious health challenge.  Vog conditions can cause:   

photo by Mariko Schmitauer  Oct 10 Oahu
  • Reduced air quality  
  • Decreased visibility 
  • Coughing fits and itchy eyes
  • Increase  reports of domestic violence 
  • Asthma attacks  
  • Emergency hospital visits for people with pulmonary disease.  

First Step is to be aware of Vog drifting across the state from the Big Island.  

Vog is volcanic air pollution and varies with volcanic activity and wind direction. Trade winds generally blow the problem away from the most populated Hawaiian islands, but Kona winds or no winds can bring thick gray VOG to the coastlines and valleys across the state.


Know that Vog can have a big impact on the health and behavior of people.   

Itchiness, short tempers, bronchitis, allergies, headaches, a prickly sensation or general malaise, cardio-pulminary (COPD) problems, depression and low energy are all possible indications of a reaction to Vog. Be patient with yourself and others. Drive with extra caution. Stay healthy and share our Vog survival health tips with others.  


Be aware that individuals may react to Vog and not know it.  

Visitors used to poor air quality and smoggy cities from burning fossil fuels may not even notice vog, but may not feel well, or just feel moody, despite being on vacation. Be attentive to elderly children and people with a history of asthma. Pay attention to symptoms your body exhibits and take steps to minimize exposure to VOG if you are highly affected. 


VOG is a health hazard and is monitored by the health department. The EPA acceptable level of sulfur dioxide in the air is 75 parts per billion measured hourly.  However vog also contains ammonium sulfates, ash, and heavy metals as well as sulfur compounds, and complete health affects remain unknown. Kīlauea emits 2,000 - 4,000 tons of sulfur dioxide every day. In 2008 and 2012 parts of the Big Island were declared an agricultural disaster area due to crop damage from vog effects.   


Here are 10 tips on ways you can:  

Reduce exposure,  

Support your immune system,  

Address symptoms of VOG. 


1. Reduce or avoid exposure to other air pollutants on the job and at home. cane field

Vog reduces the bodies natural abilities to expel toxins.  Don't overload your system.
Reduce your work toxic exposure including cleaning supplies, paint fumes, smoke.  Consult your doctor, or for more severe symptoms, a toxicologist or an industrial hygienist. Take extra precautions if you should wear a proper fitting mask or respirator on the job. Change filters often. Reduce the exposure to other pollution sources such as burning rubbish, cigarette smoke, cane burning and avoid over exertion during periods of exposure to Vog.  


2. Drink lots of fluids - keep throat and eyes moist and happy.  

To prevent a cough or sore throat, use a Neti pot or saline nasal wash to keep breathing passages open and flushed of vog areosol particles that can irritate mucus lining. To prevent dry and itchy or red eyes, use saline eye drops and flush your eyes often.  If you wear contact lens, be sure and keep them clean and wet, or choose to use glasses for now. Take a break from staring at computer screens and rest your eyes more frequently. Splash water on your face. If you drive, wear sunglasses to protect from glare. 


3. Don't overexert yourself when VOG levels are high. Relax. hammock

As Vog seems to worsen during the day, it is best to do yard work or exercise earlier in the day. If practical, avoid high VOG areas during times of thick VOG.

Take time off from training for a marathon, roofing a house at noon,  hauling rocks with a bad heart, or playing too hard at recess if you are prone to asthma. Practice meditation and relaxing.  Dust off that club membership to work-out in an air conditioned gym, or take the kids to swim in the ocean where the air quality is better. Watch out for sunburn: 


4. The good news is that ammonium sulfate is water soluable.  The bad news is that vog can also prevent rain, which would wash the air.  Extended bouts of vog can lead to drought or dry conditions, even while the air feels humid or heavy.  

man water


Make your own rain by misting the air with a spritzer filled with water, essential oils an/or vinegar to take particulate material out of the air.    


A local Big Island remedy includes hanging up sheets that have been soaked in a  mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda to one liter of water (which can help trap acid aerosols and gases.)   


Frequent bathing, showers, watering your garden, or be near streams and the ocean can help relax and keep cool where the air quality it better.  


5. When VOG is strong, avoid exposure to colds, flu, molds, mildew, pollen, and dust. Some of the lung clearance and immune functions could be compromised by high VOG. Need to knock out Mold and Mildew? We recommend:  Big Island quality hand crafted Dmedicine Woman's Breath Better:     Order on-line or find Darlene at the Keahou farmer's market on Big Island. D. Medicine Woman products are available on Oahu at 7 Treasures of Health  & Acupuncture.  


6. For very high VOG, stay indoors, filter air, air purifier or Air conditioning, use wet handkerchiefs, fans. 

Go find sanctuary in Air Conditioning. A stroll in the mall or cool cafe or grocery store can be a vog respite. Use your car AC.  Close the house windows, and run an air purifier or air conditioner. Place a wet towel or cheese cloth over a fan. Indoor plants (especially spider plants) have been touted to help clean the air. Don't forget to clean your air filters, including your computer fan, keep your work area cool and dust free.
Consult your doctor about your state of health, and consult an industrial hygienist about respirators.


7. Be prepared, and emergency phone #'s near at hand:

Keep any respiratory filters, CPAP machines, asthma aids and heart medications you use handy. Keep an eye on the elderly or young family members who may not know to ask for help. Find a Hospital, consult your doctor, ND or health professional.  


8. Hot tea and herbs are helpful.  

Green Tea or caffeinated teas contain theophyliine - a bronchial dilator and can be sipped throughout the day.


"Uncle Kimo" makes a Vog Tea specifically for relieving symptoms of Vog made with Hawaiian plants: Hawaiian Mamaki, Ko'oko'olau, Liko Lehua, Lau-Kahi, Ha'uoi, chinese herbsand 'Awa.  Ask you Chinese herbal practitioner about "liver detox" teas to help rebalance an overworked liver to ease irritability and reduce stress. Vog Buster Tea  and can be found at health stores such as  Down to Earth.  Based on traditional formulas the tea contains Prunella, Uncaria, Perilla seed, Pyrola and Schizonepetae.


herbs Crush fragrant fresh herbs like Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Bay or Orange peel for a quick pick up. Quality aromatherapy products can expand bronchial capacity. Look for Eucalyptus, Camphor, Peppermint, Wintergreen. Be careful not to put pure essential oils directly on your skin or mucus membranes. 




9. Take Green steps to improve your physical health and mental outlook:

 Improve your digestion with probiotics. Think "green' as  salads, steamed greens, fresh veggies all help your liver detox naturally.  cucmber

Make  a simple quick keep-your-cool-as-a cucumber green lemon-ade drink.  Just plunk a peeled cucumber in the blender with fresh lemon juice, add aloe juice, ice cubes, water and a dash of olive oil.  


Avoid high fructose corn syrup and fats, even in the form of ice cream as they tend to make you "hot" as they digest.  

Click the link to Find healthy food in Hawaii:  


10. Know thyself: Know and improve your baseline lung function.

Stop smoking, even if its just for a week. Have your doctor keep records of both your lung function and approximate VOG levels. Take the tests after breathing "clean" air one week or more), then get retested if/when breathing becomes more difficult during high VOG episodes. Take steps to improve your health with a life plan for optimal health.  See your Acupuncturist or Holistic health practitioner or take a yoga class to learn to improve lung function. Find a yoga class in Hawaii:   


More info:  Vog and Health Risks:   


View a LIVE web cam of Kilauea Caldera  to see volcano activity happening NOW.    


Note: This information presented as an educational tool only and is not intended to diagnose nor replace professional health services. Consult your professional health practitioner for more information regarding your health concerns and vog.


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