SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
Usually during this time of year, we are watching for tropical storms and hurricanes, but instead a cloud of dust is headed towards the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, to the Gulf coast states. It’s called the Saharan dust layer. This will allow a decrease in tropical activity due to pockets of dry air taking up the moisture over a vast region. It will also provide vibrant sunsets here on the Suncoast, which is due to the sun interacting with the orange and red dust particles in the air. However, the dust particles can have an effect on your health, primarily targeting the respiratory systems.
“It isn’t the same reaction that we get with a true allergy, where we are creating inflammation. It’s really more of an irritation that activates the cough reflex,” says Dr. Julie Daugherty, Clinician-Scientist with the Allergy Associates in Venice, FL.
It is important to distinguish the difference in symptoms between an irritant such as dust, compared to Covid-19, which is associated with a fever.
Dr. Daugherty says, “One of the ways to differentiate would be if you’re inspiring or if you are breathing in air and you are irritated because we know that dust is present at this time, that would be more symptomatic of having just dust exposure and irritation rather than the Covid cough, the dry cough that’s accompanied is something that is somewhat produced internally.”
One form of protection against these dust particles is to continue wearing a face mask, which will diminish the amount of particles that you are breathing in.
“For those who have chronic respiratory issues we recommend that you stay indoors, not to spend a long time outside, have your rescue inhaler or medications if you are a chronic respiratory patient with asthma or COPD, because if you are out and about you may get triggered,” states Dr. Daugherty.
This increase in atmospheric dust can also cause harmful algae blooms offshore, which will impact areas along the Gulf coast.
“This dust comes with a lot of iron, and iron limits the growth of algae in the ocean. So, when you get the iron dust deposited in the ocean, the iron dissolves and it becomes a nutrient for a type of cyanobacteria. This is an offshore marine cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium,” says Dr. Cynthia Heil, Director of the Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory.