Saharan dust could worsen symptoms for those with respiratory conditions

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 9:32 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the Saharan dust plume makes its way to the gulf, those with respiratory conditions may want to stay inside.

Doctors say the arrival of saharan dust paired with the pandemic could cause more issues for people suffering from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or COPD.

"The Saharan dust layer's just going to create another layer of risk, if you will, in that most of these respiratory diseases follow a very similar pathway," St. Tammany Coroner Dr. Charles Preston said.

Preston said while the dust may just feel like a common cold to healthy individuals, it may lead to more serious symptoms for those with pre-existing conditions.

“God forbid that the compromised host then gets colonized with Coronavirus, that’s going to be a short pathway to the hospital,” Preston said.

“The type of symptoms that people might get with those pre-existing diseases if exposed to particulates, could look very much like COVID-19 and create a differential diagnostic dilemma,” Dr. James Diaz, with LSU Health Environmental Health Sciences said.

Diaz said the saharan dust comes around periodically, but is a bigger concern for children with asthma.

"For the sub-Saharan, we have to include children with asthma, because they are at particular high risk as compared to all other groups of getting symptomatic from this dust exposure," Diaz said.

He says because the symptoms of COVID-19 and effects from saharan dust are similar, it's best to get tested to differentiate between the two.

While the Saharan dust could bring beautiful sunsets, doctors say, it's best to stay inside when the air quality worsens later in the week.

"Look through your window. you'll still be able to see the sunrise and sunset from inside a controlled environment, and if they just must must must go out, to take at least a measure of protection by wearing a mask," Preston said.

“Even though we see this phenomena every year, it’s the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the phenomena that we want to call attention to,” Diaz said.

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