• The Star Staff

Masks should be worn for protection against Sahara dust, too

By John McPhaul


Pulmonologist Luis Nieves Garrastegui warned on Monday that not only people who suffer from re- spiratory conditions will be affected by the large cloud of dust from the Sahara Desert that is expected to engulf the island all week long, but that all citizens will feel some effect, so keep using the face mask as a good prevention practice.

“This time it has been phenomenal in the sense that the amount of particulate that has come in this cloud is so dense that the indication is no longer only for people who suffer from rhinitis, asthma, COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis,” Nieves Garrastegui said in a radio interview. “It is not only for people who have critical lung conditions; this is going to affect the entire population because it is very dense.”

“The air becomes unhealthy,” he added. “In fact, the use of masks that we are promoting so much to avoid COVID-19, helps us a lot if we have to go out to avoid inhaling [the dust].”

The physician also recommended premedication with antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory for the nose, something that is very important both for patients with chronic respiratory diseases and for those who do not suf- fer from them.

“There can be symptoms as simple as itchy eyes, itchy skin, sore throat, hoarseness,” Nieves Garrastegui said. “Those with chronic illnesses may have sneezing, cough- ing, fibrillation, snoring, shortness of breath. Practically like getting sick. It is very important that you understand the level we are at.”

He added that exercising outdoors is not recommended unless you are wearing a mask and protecting your eyes. “It is not recommended that there be any activity outside until this peak of Sahara dust passes,” the pulmonologist warned. “Dust from the Sahara has always been with us in the Caribbean,” Nieves Garrastegui noted. “This is not new. What is new is the composition and how dense this [cloud] is in particular.”