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Explainer: How Saharan dust causes health concerns in Cenla

Saharan dust has been causing hazy skies in the Central Louisiana area, along with air quality issues.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 4:01 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Saharan dust has been causing hazy skies in the Central Louisiana area, along with air quality issues.

KALB Chief Meteorologist Rachael Penton explained that Saharan dust coming into the area is something that happens every year during the summer.

“Saharan dust is dust from the Sahara Desert, which is all the way over on the continent of Africa,” Penton said. “What happens is during the summertime, easterly trade winds pick up the dust, and it transports dust particles across the Atlantic into the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast.”

The dust causes a haziness in the sky that can result in pretty sunsets because of the extra particles in the atmosphere. But those particles also threaten the air quality when waves, with increased concentrations of the dust particles, linger in the atmosphere.

The State Department of Environmental Quality recently issued air quality alerts for Alexandria with the air quality at the orange level, which is unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. Those sensitive groups include people with underlying respiratory issues.

Debbie Doggett, an ER Family Nurse Practitioner at Rapides Regional Medical Center, said there are ways for those people to combat the effects of Saharan dust.

“I would start with over-the-counter medicine like Zyrtec, Mucinex, or any of the nasal decongestants,” Doggett said.

She also suggested that those with severe respiratory issues wear a mask if they plan on being outside for long periods or limiting their time outside.

They should also stay aware of symptoms that may require medical attention.

“Symptoms that are concerning for them,” Doggett said. “If their oxygen is not the way they feel or if they feel short of breath, they’re running a fever, they just feel fatigued or anything that’s just very abnormal for them, it’s best to come and get checked out.”

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