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Sandstorms in the UAE: how do I stay safe and who is at risk? May 19, 2022

UAE doctors say patients with asthma should carry their inhalers at all times and seek medical help if breathing becomes difficult

Doctors in the UAE have advised people to remain indoors and wear face masks as dust and sandstorms sweep across the country.

The use of air purifiers is also recommended for people with breathing difficulties.

Dr Emad Al Nemnem, a pulmonary disease consultant at Burjeel Medical City, said residents with respiratory diseases are at greater risk and must take extra care.

“Sandstorms are especially dangerous for patients with respiratory disorders, particularly those with chronic bronchitis and asthma,” Dr Nemnem said.

“The symptoms start with an increase in coughing, sputum and chest tightness.”

He advised asthma patients to carry their inhalers at all times and consult a doctor or head to the emergency department if breathing becomes difficult.

“We urge patients to drink lots of water, wear good-quality masks even at home and get an air purifier,” he said.

In a WhatsApp alert, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre said exposure to sand and dust could be harmful to all.

“However, there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to such harm caused by sandstorms,” it read.

People with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are particularly vulnerable.

Other categories include infants, children, the elderly and those with heart disease, plus those with conditions affecting the nose and eyes such as rhinitis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis.

The centre advised people to stay home during sandstorms and close their windows, and suggested they keep their nasal passages moist with the help of petroleum jelly.

“Apply a little amount of non-perfumed Vaseline inside the nostrils to avoid dry mucosa," the message said.

“For most of us the symptoms caused by sandstorms are short-lived, but if you find symptoms persist or worsen you should seek medical attention,” reads the website of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

“If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should visit your doctor to develop a management or response plan for dealing with any health changes in the event of a sandstorm.

“Allergy sufferers may want to take an antihistamine.”

The National Centre of Meteorology issued a weather warning at the start of the month that dust and sand storms would sweep across the Emirates.

A weather alert was again issued on Wednesday that the dusty and windy weather would continue.

The UAE has been in the grip of sandstorms since Tuesday.

Official weather stations have registered hazardous air quality in many areas since, with the scale reaching as high as 684 near Al Ain on Thursday morning.

Experts say anything above 250 has an immediate and heavy effect on health.

As the summer approaches, sandstorms are likely to continue.

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