Experts across the UAE have warned of the health impacts from the dusty conditions caused by sandstorms which have blanketed large parts of the country this week.
This week, forecasters issued a countrywide alert of hazardous weather due to sandstorm-related dust conditions.
In recent days, the dusty weather has descended over almost all of the UAE.
As winds blow dust and sand into the atmosphere - affecting not only visibility - it also acerbates existing health conditions among residents, say doctors.
Dr Rakesh Kumar Gupta, deputy medical director and specialist pulmonologist of Lifecare Hospital, Musaffah, told Al Arabiya English: “In this dusty weather, a higher number of patients seek medical attention for respiratory issues.
“Exposure to sandstorms can cause health problems in people in the high-risk category like patients with pre-existing respiratory conditions, pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those who work outdoors.
“While the larger dust particles can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, the finer particles can irritate the lungs and lead to allergic reactions.
“Sandstorm exposure may worsen conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases. It may also trigger an acute attack of asthma in previously stable asthmatics, so these patients must take extra care.”
The doctor said is necessary to take adequate precautions during a sandstorm.
“Avoid going outside, especially when there is low visibility and high winds. Carry water with you to stay hydrated. Keep your mouth and nose covered with a mask or respirator. Wear protective eyewear and rinse your eyes with water if your eyes are irritated.
“People with bad allergies can continue taking prescribed medications like antihistamines. If you experience symptoms like coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulty, chest pain or chest discomfort, seek medical help immediately.”
Dr Muhammed Aslam, a specialist in pulmonology at the International Modern Hospital in Dubai, told Al Arabiya English that sandstorms can be detrimental to people’s health.
“Nowadays we are seeing a lot of sandstorm episodes in the country; this is harmful to our health.
“It affects our lungs, our respiratory system, our nose, our eyes. Also, those who already have allergies such as asthma are more prone to develop more systems such as runny nose, sneezing, throat discomfort, coughing and difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
“It happens because of dust particles, while other virus particles can also be spread due to the sandstorm.
“So the preventative measures is to stay indoors – don’t go outside if the sandstorm is heavy and watch the local weather forecast so you can monitor your activities.
“Also, use air conditioning so that outside air will not come inside, and use allergy medicine if you are already allergies. You may need to up the dosage of your medicines as well but consult your doctor before doing so.”
Ahmed El Mansoury, a consultant in pulmonology at NMC Royal Hospital in Sharjah, also said sandstorms can cause an increase in respiratory problems such as asthma and some infectious diseases such as pneumonia due to circulated dust particles, causing wheezing and coughing,
“The best precaution is to stay at home; if you have to go outside then wear a mask or some protective device like you see with COVID-19 – such as protection of eyes and hand washing and normal other precautions for respiratory illnesses.”
Forecasters at the National Center of Meteorology said much of the same weather is expected over the course of the next few days, with a high likelihood of dust and sand affecting visibility up until at least Sunday.
A sandstorm has also engulfed Saudi Arabia’s capital and other regions of the Kingdom this week, hampering visibility and slowing road traffic.