Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes the airways to narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Various environmental factors can make symptoms worse or even incite an attack. These triggers include allergens, smoke, pollen, incense burning and perfume. Although generally harmless, sandstorms can also cause unwanted effects in people with asthma.
Dust storms can transport various types of dust and biological particles across vast distances worldwide, including bacteria, fungi and viruses. Coupled with dust and air pollutants, dust storms can make asthma symptoms worse and they might be accountable for increased hospitalisations. One of the particles associated with breathing problems is quartz, a mineral found in desert sand dust that can trigger inflammation. Many asthmatics also suffer from hay fever and exposure to dust will also irritate their eyes and nose, which further worsens asthma. Fortunately for those with asthma, there are precautions you can take to stay healthy and safe during sandstorms.
Here are some tips to help you beat the storm
- If you can, completely avoid going outside
- When outside, try to stay in sheltered areas, preferably enclosed
- Prepare yourself by obtaining a mask you can wear over your nose and mouth
- Cover your nose and mouth to protect your airways while outside
- If you don’t have a mask, use a dampened handkerchief or bandana
- Protect your eyes as well as your nose and mouth
- Use petroleum jelly to moisten your nostrils so they don’t dry out
- Avoid any strenuous exercise
- Consider taking antihistamine tablets if your hay fever gets worse during sandstorms
- You and your doctor may have created your own personalised asthma management plan, in which case you should
regularly check your peak flow readings at home. It may be necessary to
increase your preventative inhaler dose during sandstorms.