Anyone that has respiratory problems should be careful where they walk out to. There are many spots in the park where the sulfur fumes can be overwhelming, and dangerous.
The park has marked many of these spots with warning signs.
Another danger, that I was unaware of - Allergies to the chemicals in Thermal Waters, heated by volcanos.
During a recent trip to Costa Rica's "Aguas Termales la Marina" we spent over two hours enjoying the beauty of the surroundings, the warm water from the pools of varying temperatures, and the wildlife also in the area. We saw a sloth up in the trees and Blue Morpho butterflies to my amazement.
Then 2 -1/2 hours later, when our skin began to shrivel from being in the water so long, our friend and guide tells us that the waters are heated by the Volcano Poas.
My lungs were still suffering from visiting the volcano Poas on the previous day. Now, I worried about the water we had been sitting in for more than 2 hours. We showered before leaving the park and later before going to sleep ... but that didn't help.
Later that day, I began to itch. During the night, the rash developed and by morning my arms, trunk, hips, and upper legs were one solid rash. For the next two days, I had fever, chills, and nausea (when I became overheated).
Talking about misery! In combination with the lung problem I was having, I had no choice but to seek medical attention.
My friend took me to a pharmacy (farmacia) in Heredia. There I received an anti-histamine injection, an anti-itch/anti-inflammatory-anthhistamine liquid for the rash, and some Benadryl tablets.
Two days later, I was feeling a little better. The rash took almost 2 full weeks to subside.
----- Be careful, the chemicals in the water can be toxic to your skin.
I recently visited Volcan Poas (Costa Rica), which is considered mildly active. Although there haven't been any lava eruptions for many years, there are steam vents that are continually releasing seemingly harmless clouds of steam. I know now, that they are actually release toxic steam, gases and occasionally streams of toxic liquids.
From the observation area, we saw the clouds of steam over the volcano, but never smelled anything suspicious. However, later that day my lungs began to feel very tight and breathing became alarmingly constricted.
I sought medical attention 2 days later, when I didn't improve. Now, three weeks later, I'm still trying to recover and still have episodes of my lungs feeling tight. Saw my Dr. in the USA today, and received an injection of steroids, a prescription for steroids, an allergy medication, and an inhaler to help relieve the lung irritation.
I thought I had researched the volcanos of Costa Rica. I read article, after article on the internet and read The Lonely Planet's Guide to Costa Rica, but never read anything about the innocent looking steam being dangerous to nearby visitors.
Now I know, that there is a possibility of those same toxic fumes being so powerful, that you could be overtaken and die without even knowing what happened. Be extremely cautious about visiting an active volcano ... even one that releases steam.
If you're going hiking or walking about on lava flows, make sure you're wearing long pants. If you should fall, the lava is very sharp and will cut you. Carry water for each person and a first aid kit. Don't get too close to the active lava areas. When hot lava hits the water, great steam clouds are produced. The steam is toxic. The winds can shift quickly, causing you to inhale toxic steam. A couple of tourists were found dead last year, and the assumption is that they were overcome by the steam clouds, based on the damage to their lungs. Also, the lava that hits water cools very quickly, forming what's known as a 'bench' of lava. This is lava that has hardened at the surface, but has no support beneath it. As the bench continues to extend outward into the ocean, the weight of the lava will cause it to break off and slide into the ocean without warning. At least one tourist who didn't listen to the Park Rangers lost his life when the bench broke off and he was tossed into the sea. Please show respect for the power of the volcano and of the land.
Also, it is considered unlucky to take any lava rocks with you. If you doubt this, go to the Visitor Center and read some of the letters on display explaining what has happended to families that took lava rocks. These letters accompanied boxes containing lava rocks that they wanted returned to the volcano. Even local people respect this cultural belief, and won't even take rocks from one island to the other.
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