Saharan Dust Cloud Could Cause Breathing Problems In Oklahoma

Friday, June 26th 2020, 4:39 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

Just when you thought the worst of 2020 was over, in rolls a cloud of dust. 

A massive cloud of fine dust from the Sahara Desert is settling over Oklahoma this weekend.

“It’s very fine particulate matter. So it adds to the problems folks may have with chronic respiratory disease and allergies,” said Dr. Jason Bellak of the Oklahoma Institute of Allergy and Asthma. “The smaller it is the deeper it can get into the airways and the more problems it can cause so we see a lot of folks wearing masks now, appropriately. And unfortunately the finer dust particles, the dust masks that work are the M95 masks that are a little bit harder to find.”

Every year a mass of dusty air called the Saharan Air Layer forms over the Sahara Desert and moves westward. This year it’s bigger than normal. 

If you’re outside, Bellak said you can expect “itchy watery eyes, runny stuffy nose, sore throat from drainage, frequent throat clearing. We often see in our allergic folks shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, wheezing.”

“You want to spend more time indoors unfortunately this weekend. But if you do need to go outdoors try to do it earlier in the morning or later in the evening and limit your time outdoors,” Bellak said if you have allergies or respiratory issues.

Experts say wearing some kind of mask is better than no mask at all.