If you're in Texas, you may have noticed that your allergy symptoms have been revving up despite pollen counts being relatively low. It could be African Saharan dust in the air causing your respiratory issues.
What is Saharan Dust?
According to NASA, winds pick up an estimated 100 million tons of dust each year from the Sahara Desert. A large amount of that dust (also known as Saharan Air Layer or SAL) is picked up by the seasonal trade winds and blown over the Atlantic and into the Caribbean, as well as Europe and North and South America.
Benefits of Saharan dust
Besides wreaking havoc on our air quality and allergies, the dust provides a variety of benefits to the ecosystem. Saharan dust contains a multitude of minerals, including iron and phosphorous, that act as natural fertilizers to soil. The Amazon rainforest relies heavily on these minerals to replace nutrients lost from the soil due to heavy rainfall and flooding.
Not only does the dust help provide extra nutrients to soil, but it also provides great benefit to our oceans. Coral reefs in the Bahamas are believed to have originated because of Saharan dust, since the coastal waters are not naturally nutrient rich. Algae and phytoplankton can also feed off the nutrients of the dust, however too much iron can also cause red tides of algae to bloom.
Temperature and storms are also affected by Saharan dust. The dust provides an extra layer of protection between the sun and oceans, keeping the oceans up to 1 degree cooler and keeping hurricanes from forming and growing. Dust also absorbs solar radiation, which in turn keeps thunderstorms that can cause hurricanes from forming.
When does Saharan dust come to Texas?
Saharan dust is being blown year-round by different trade winds. Between mid-June and late August the dust will blow into Texas and North America and stays for about 3-5 days at a time. Seasonal winds carry dust to South America and Europe during winter and spring.
Is the Saharan dust harmful to humans?
Once the dust arrives, it is too fine to be seen with the naked eye, but creates a hazy illusion that can be mistaken for fog or smog. Air quality may be deemed "unhealthy" and may affect those with lung or respiratory issues, including asthma or allergy symptoms.
How to Reduce Symptoms of dust
Check air quality to see if there is dust in the air. When dust levels are high, avoid going outside if you don't need to. Use a high-grade air purifier to control your indoor environmental exposure to dust. If you can’t avoid going outside, multiple studies have shown that wearing a face mask is a safe and effective way to help reduce allergy symptoms.
If all else fails, our Seasonal Allergy Formula is an easy way to reduce symptoms of dust allergies naturally. Add 6-10 drops to a glass of water or into your mouth every 4 hours while experiencing symptoms.