Sahara dust cloud: what health complications can it cause and what recommendations are there to protect yourself


The dust cloud hit Puerto Rico this week.




On their usual journey of thousands of kilometers from North Africa, dust particles from the Sahara desert have already reached this week in southeastern Mexico and several Caribbean countries.

Every year, more than 100 million tons of Saharan dust is lifted from the desert, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and much of it reaches Europe and America.

According to Olga Mayol, an expert at the Institute of Tropical Ecosystem Studies at the University of Puerto Rico, the current cloud has the highest concentrations of dust particles observed in the region in the last half-century.

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And although it is a common phenomenon, which even has beneficial effects on ecosystems such as that of the Amazon, this year it has added to health concerns due to respiratory problems related to the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Upon reaching Mexican territory, the leader of the government's strategy for the pandemic, Hugo López-Gatell, asked the population of the southeast of the country on Wednesday to take precautionary measures.

The huge cloud of dust travels from North Africa to America and Europe.


"The particles are between 2.5 and 10 microns in size, which are the respirable particles. Then, they can enter through the nose and mouth when breathing and lodge in the trachea, in the bronchi, or even get smaller than 2, 5 to the terminals, bronchi, and alveoli in the lungs, "explained the epidemiologist. Dust clouds often affect people who already have chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis, which are part of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). How our immune system works and how it fights the coronavirus And these people are more vulnerable to complications if they catch the new coronavirus. More than just dust The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that the danger of this phenomenon "lies in the content of bacteria, viruses, spores, iron, mercury and pesticides that dust presents."

In addition to sand particles from the Sahara, the cloud carries other elements present in the environments it passes through.



And it is that when the winds in the desert of North Africa lift sand, they collect pollutants when passing through deforested areas of the region, mainly from sub-Saharan countries.


"Savannas, prairies and forests": what the Sahara was like before it became one of the largest deserts on the planet
"These storms, when they are able to concentrate and reach populated areas in Europe and America, can provoke the appearance of allergies and asthmatic crises in many people," explains the WHO.

The cloud has touched Caribbean countries on its way to the southern United States,


People with respiratory problems or immunosuppression, who in turn are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, are usually the most affected.

"Cases of persistent 'flu' or allergies without apparent cause are often referred to, which may have been caused by contact with particles of biological origin present in these mists," says the WHO.

What is recommended to do?
Ideally, avoid prolonged exposure to Saharan dust, so the general recommendation is to stay indoors when these clouds are present.

The greatest care should be taken by people who have problems with the COPD group, as well as older adults, pregnant women, and children say the WHO.


Havana, Cuba, registered the presence of Saharan dust on June 24.

He recommends using facial protectors, such as face masks or a damp cloth handkerchief that completely covers the nose and mouth.

"If you have a sensation of foreign bodies in the eyes, wash them with plenty of water. It is preferable to use potable, boiled, or chlorinated water. Wash your hands before starting the procedure," she adds.

It is also important to cover water sources (wells, containers, or ponds) to avoid contamination. And moisten the floor before sweeping to prevent dust from re-suspending.

The general recommendation is to avoid exposing yourself to Saharan dust for long periods.




Sahara dust cloud: what health complications can it cause and what recommendations are there to protect yourself Sahara dust cloud: what health complications can it cause and what recommendations are there to protect yourself Reviewed by Hamza Ali on June 28, 2020 Rating: 5

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