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30 Nov 2017 dr. Ni Wayan Desy Lestari Articles 103

(photo credit: Emilio Kuzma-Floyd instagram: @eyes_of_a_nomad)

There are many ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy from the noxious and hazardous effects of Gunung Agung’s recent volcanic eruption.  


Mount Agung’s volcanic ash may cause health problems to you respiratory tract, eyes, and skin.

1. Respiratory Tract

The particles of the ashes from the eruption are extremely small.  Even if you are in a healthy condition, when your respiratory tract (lungs, bronchi, throat) are exposed to volcanic ash this may cause discomfort in your chest, inflammation to your respiratory tract, and cough.  Other signs and symptoms may also include:

-runny nose

-sore throat, which may be accompanied by dry cough

-shortness of breath

People that already have lung and respiratory problems (such as asthma, COPD) may experience productive cough, wheezing, and intensified shortness of breath.

2. Eyes

Irritation to the eyes is common during volcanic eruption.  The ash may cause abrasions to your cornea (keratitis) and conjunctivitis (“pink eye”, which in this case is not caused by a virus or bacteria), which can be painful and cause visual disturbances.  Those that usually use contact lenses are not advised to wear them during such periods.

Signs and symptoms may include:

-eyes may be painful, itchy, or red

-discomfort in your eyes, feeling of having a foreign object

-discharge from your eyes, may range from tears to pus

-visual disturbances

3. Skin

The effects of volcanic ash on the skin may be less common than to your respiratory tract or eyes. However individuals that may be sensitive to it may experience dermatitis or eczema with signs of symptoms of:

-redness and rash


-secondary infection caused by scratches


1. Avoid travelling if you do not need to evacuate

Right after an ash rain, even in minimal intensity, traffic conditions may worsen as sight distance decreases dramatically.  Even though normal rain may improve air quality, the improvement is temporary.  Once the air dries up, gusts of wind may cause the ash to blow into your respiratory system and your eyes.  If it is not recommended to evacuate, stay at home or indoors.  If you really need to travel, close all windows in your vehicle (assuming it is a car) and do not turn on your air-conditioning.  Air conditioning may take air and volcanic ash into your vehicle.  Mind the distance between you and the car in front of you as sight will be interfered.

2. Minimalizing ash that goes into your house.

Close all windows and doors.  Place wet cloths or towels on frames of your doors and windows to close down ash coming into the room.

3. Protective Gear

Wear a mask.  It can also be recommended to wet the mask first to increase the efficacy of it to prevent ash from getting into your lungs.  Those that already have respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, we recommend for you to stay indoors.  Wear long sleeves and long pants.

4. Eye protection

Use your glasses. Even if you have normal eyesight, wear glasses or goggles.

5. Water and Food Supply

Close all water containers in order to prevent contamination.  Cut off pipes and close off water drainage systems in order to prevent pipes clogging up.  Have clean water reserve and clean food at home.  Remember to properly wash your food as they will be contaminated with ash.

6. Cleaning up your house

When trying to clean up ash, sprinkle a little bit of water on the ash.  Do not use too much water as that will cause the ash to clump into a hard mass.  And remember to always use a mask!



  1. Departemen Kesehatan Republik Indonesia. Panduan Pencegahan Terhadap Hujan Abu Gunung Api: Sebelum, Selama dan Sesudah Hujan Abu. [Dikutip 27 November 2017].  

  2. International Volcanic Health Hazard Network. The Health Hazards of Volcanic Ash (A Guide For the Public). [Dikutip 27 November 2017]. Tersedia dari:

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Protecting Yourself During a Volcanic Eruption. [Dikutip 27 November 2017]. Tersedia dari:

    Photo Credit:

    (Emilio Kuzma-Floyd instagram: @eyes_of_a_nomad)