Saharan Dust Cloud Symptoms Could Mimic COVID-19

This June 7 satellite image shows dust from the Sahara Desert as it begins to move west toward...
This June 7 satellite image shows dust from the Sahara Desert as it begins to move west toward North America.(Source: NOAA)
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 9:58 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A cloud of Saharan dust that’s blowing into Central Texas may start affecting your breathing.

The cloud making its way across the Atlantic isn’t a new phenomenon, though.

Meteorologists say it happens every mid-June to mid-August.

But, they say this year, the plume is thicker than usual, and that it’s a larger cloud.

According to Dr. Gregory Newman, with Baylor Scott & White, there’s also the added worry of COVID-19.

“It is a fine particle,” Newman said. “It can get into the lungs, kinda past our normal lung defenses.”

Dr. Newman says anyone with prior lung conditions will likely start feeling the effects on Friday and over the weekend.

But even though respiratory irritation and cough caused by the dust may mimic the symptoms of coronavirus, Newman says there’s one easy way to tell the difference.

“If you go outside, and you notice that all of a sudden your symptoms increase, then that’s going to be more than likely the dust,” Newman said.

“If you come inside and they go away, that’s a good sign.”

Newman suggests staying inside as much as possible this weekend, especially those with underlying respiratory conditions.

He also suggests changing out air filters to those specifically made to catch fine particles and allergens.

One last point: Newman said masks that we’re already wearing can help, too. He says they’re made to trap particles as small as the COVID-19 virus before you can inhale them, so they’ll work even better to trap the dust particles.

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