Sandstorms are defined as strong gusts of wind that carry sand and dust particles with them.
Sandstorms are most frequent during the months of April and May when winds in these areas are the highest. Sandstorms come with the transition from winter to summer in the Gulf. They affect large areas sweeping through many countries at a time.
Sandstorms are most often seen in the Sub-Saharan region and are a particular problem in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf where there are large areas of desert land.
At their worst, sandstorms can completely blanket the surrounding area making it difficult to see and breathe. To onlookers the skyline may appear orange or brown, the result of massive amounts of sand and dust in the air.
SANDSTORMS HEALTH HAZARDS
• Sinus allergies and respiratory infections as the dust consists of tiny solid particles floating in the air, which can get past the lungs› natural defenses and harm sensitive lung tissue.
• Allergic reactions or asthma attacks can be triggered due to dust.
• Chronic breathing and lung problems as well as heart disease due to prolonged exposure to airborne dust.
• Eye, ear, nose and throat infections as a result of array of viruses, bacteria and harmful chemicals carried by these sandstorms. Each gram of dust carries millions of bacterial cells.
WHO IS AT RISK?
• Infants and young children
• People with a history of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other respiratory conditions
• People with heart disease
• Pregnant women
• People who have to work outdoors, such as construction or delivery workers
PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE DURING SANDSTORMS
• Avoid going outdoors and put off outdoor activities, especially during high winds or low visibility when the dust levels are particularly harmful.
• Keep windows and doors closed.
• Cover the nose and mouth with a mask or damp cloth to reduce inhalation of particles of dust when going out.
• When driving, keep the car›s windows closed, and opt for air conditioning instead of fresh air.
• Avoid rubbing of eyes in order to prevent eye infection, which is common during this season.
• Wearing of protective gear such as airtight goggles-if eyes become irritated, rinse with water, especially for those wearing contact lenses.
• People who are prone to allergies should start using their antihistamines, even before the symptoms start.