Saharan dust may worsen respiratory symptoms, Ministry of Health warns

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Saharan dust may worsen respiratory symptoms, Ministry of Health warns

(GIS) — Dr. Glensford Joseph, the medical officer for health in the Department of Health and Wellness, is asking the public to be cautious of Saharan dust plumes in the Caribbean.

The weather-related phenomenon, referred to as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), is a mixture of sand and dust from the Sahara Desert that forms regularly over the Sahara Desert during late spring, summer and early fall. High winds blow the dust westward over the tropical Atlantic.

The presence of the dust causes reduced visibility, while the dust particles can exacerbate the symptoms of respiratory illnesses and allergies.

“Saharan dust could pose some health problems for persons with significant illness,” Dr. Joseph said. “Persons with dust allergies can experience worsening of their symptoms with itching of the eyes, nose, and throat. While, persons with respiratory illnesses like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can have increased frequency and severity of cough, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms may be severe enough to increase the number of visits to healthcare facilities. Persons un-diagnosed with respiratory illnesses like asthma may now develop symptoms.

“We should take protective measures like avoiding unnecessary and strenuous outdoor activities over the next few days. Always have a supply of your allergy and asthma medication at hand, and if your symptoms are worsening, do see your doctor or go to the respiratory clinics established across the island.”

Meanwhile, in the context of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health encouraged the public to continue practicing the recommended protocols including wearing masks, hand hygiene, and physical distancing in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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