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

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

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Doctors in the UAE advise people to remain indoors and wear face masks during bouts of dusty weather in 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.”

A dust alert was issued on Sunday morning.

The National Centre of Meteorology called for people to be "extremely vigilant" over hazardous weather events until at least 1pm today.

The forecaster said visibility had dropped below 500 metres in many parts of the country, including over Abu Dhabi International Airport.

People woke to thick clouds of dust blanketing the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with many large buildings barely visible under the haze.

Members of the public were asked to follow guidance from authorities as strong winds kicking up sand and greatly dust reduced visibility.

This is a version of an article that was first published in May, 2022

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Updated: August 15, 2022, 9:08 AM