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Your Healthy Family: Respiratory impacts of Saharan Dust

Posted at 10:19 AM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-02 10:19:36-04

SOUTHWEST FLA. — If you've been outside during the summer months, you may have noticed it: the milky, hazy skies. That's Saharan Dust. It makes for beautiful sunsets, but can also make breathing a bit harder for people with respiratory issues.

"In the summertime, it's hard to believe that the dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa travels thousands of miles over the Atlantic. And it can arrive here in Southwest Florida as often as every three to five days," Fox 4 Certified Meteorologist Trent Aric said.

He said it's most common in June and July, right at the start of hurricane season.

"How exactly does it impact our weather?" Fox 4 Morning News Anchor Lisa Greenberg asked.

"It does a couple of things. One thing about the afternoon showers and storms, if your atmosphere is really dry and dusty, it drops the rain chance. And one thing we love is it keeps things from developing in the tropics. So it keeps tropical activity down," Trent responded.

You may still be able to feel the effects of the dusts, even days after it moves through our area. Allergists said the dust can make underlying respiratory conditions temporarily worse.

"These little particles of dust can be very irritating to someone’s airway, causing symptoms of congestion, runny nose, trouble breathing," Dr. Elena Perez, an Allergist with Allergy Associates of Palm Beaches, said.

Dr. Perez said the dust has the potential to be dangerous when it's breathed in.

"There have been some studies that link exposure to the Saharan Dust to increased number of hospitalizations, increased morbidity from these underlying conditions, so it can be a serious health issue for some people, whereas other people might not even realize that something is happening," she said.

Dr. Perez recommends taking a look at the air quality reports and staying inside during the times of highest dust concentrations. If you do have to go outside, she said to consider wearing a mask, especially if you have COPD or asthma. That will help keep dust particles away from your nose and mouth.