A cloud of dust from the Sahara Desert hits Austin. Here’s what to expect
Dust-sensitive central Texans should be extra cautious this week as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality predicts air quality will reach the lower end of the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ range. until Friday due to dust from the Saharan desert.
Adopted Across the Atlantic Ocean from North Africa, the Saharan Dust Cloud –– a collection of hot air and dust plumes from the Sahara Desert –– is heading towards Texas, which could lead to respiratory problems for some. During the tropical climatic season, Saharan dust crosses the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast.
“It really is exactly what it sounds like,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sodja. “It’s a layer of dust that gets picked up in the Sahara Desert and carried across the ocean.”
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Saharan dust typically moves across Texas from mid-June to late August and appears every three to five days. The National Weather Service predicts dust will be in central Texas this week.
According to weather service meteorologist Monte Oaks, the Saharan dust is “just like a wave. You will see the concentrations increase, then the winds will change a bit. So you will have another source of concentration and it will go down, but a few days later it will go back up.
Although meteorologists can only predict the impact of Saharan dust up to two weeks in advance, the effects of the dust plume can be noticed by anyone.
Radiant sunsets are often attributed to the Saharan dust cloud due to “reflected and refracted sunlight in the atmosphere”, and it can even make sunsets and skies look “milky” during the day. , said Sodja.
Saharan dust can also reduce humidity by absorbing moisture from the air, reducing cloud cover and causing dry weather. Dust can even be mistaken for clouds.
“Can reach our lungs”
While Saharan dust is known as a catalyst for beautiful sunsets and hazy skies, the dust plume can also lead to health issues. People with asthma and seasonal allergies are directly affected by Saharan dust particles. Those without these health conditions should see no difference in their quality of life.
Although typical symptoms of Saharan dust inhalation are sneezing and coughing, people with asthma may also experience wheezing.
Many people also confuse a dust allergy with a reaction to Saharan dust, according to Dr. Chris Thompson, medical director of Aspire Allergy & Sinus. in Austin. A dust allergy refers to an allergy to dust mites, which are small insects that are commonly found indoors. Any symptoms similar to dust mite allergies could be related to the wind carrying Saharan dust and bringing other allergens into the air, such as mold.
“We call it dust, but the particles that come in are tiny like the size of a virus,” Thompson said. “When the particles are so small, they can make it all the way to our lungs. They are not filtered through the nose like other particles would.
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When dust levels are high, Thompson recommends people with symptoms stay indoors, wear a mask outside, or schedule a visit with their doctor. To get rid of dust particles, he suggests taking a shower after going out or doing a salt water nasal rinse to clean the particles from the nose.
“There’s not much you can do but avoid it,” Thompson said.
Typical allergy medications such as Zyrtec often do not help irritated eyes and sinus problems. However, treatments for asthmatic reactions can help when dust gets into the lungs.