Doha 13 Nov 2017
Hamad Medical Corporation is advising the public to take necessary precautions as the Qatar Meteorology Department has forecasted strong winds and poor visibility across most of the country due to sand and dust storms.
Sand and dust storms usually occur when strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soil into the atmosphere. Dust consists of tiny solid particles floating in the air, which can get past the lungs’ natural defenses and harm sensitive lung tissue. Fine particles of dust can irritate the lungs and trigger allergic reactions or asthma attacks, and prolonged exposure to airborne dust can cause chronic breathing and lung problems, as well as heart disease.
“Sand and dust storms could have adverse effects on health and could trigger sinus allergies and respiratory infections, especially in those with chronic diseases. Those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney diseases, and hypertension should see their doctor as soon as possible if an infection due to sand or dust storm occurs,” said Dr. Yousuf Al Maslamani, Medical Director of Hamad General Hospital.
He said that while HMC’s Emergency Departments are fully prepared for all emergencies and have additional staff on standby, residents are urged to take basic health and safety precautions during sand or dust storms.
Dr. Al Maslamani advises taking the following precautions during inclement weather:
- Avoid going outside, especially during high winds or low visibility when the dust levels are particularly harmful. Spend as little time outside as possible, and avoid doing outdoor exercise. Keep your windows and doors closed.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a mask or damp cloth to reduce inhalation of particles of dust.
- When driving, keep the car windows closed.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes to prevent eye infections. Wear protective gear such as airtight goggles. If your eyes become irritated, rinse with water. Be especially careful if you wear contact lenses.
- Those with severe allergies are advised to use antihistamines before the onset of allergy symptoms.
Dr. Al Maslamani highlighted that infants and young children, as well as the elderly, are at high risk of contracting a respiratory infection from airborne particles. According to him, others at risk include those with a history of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other respiratory conditions. People with heart disease, pregnant women, and those who work outdoors, such as construction or delivery workers, are also at increased risk.
Dr. Al Maslamani said individuals who experience mild symptoms such as watering eyes, cough or wheezing should go to their Primary Healthcare Center while those who have severe breathing problem may have a lung infection and should go to the Emergency Department.