Maybe you've noticed the skyline appears more hazy, more vibrant sunrises and sunsets or you're not sure why you've been sneezing. Saharan Dust has arrived in Texas and with it comes a host of allergy and respiratory symptoms. If you're not sure how to deal, check out 6 ways to stay ahead of the curve.What is Saharan Dust?
Saharan Dust is an annual weather event usually occurring between mid-June to late-August in Texas. An estimated 100 million tons of dust is picked up by wind from the Sahara Desert and transported by seasonal trade winds over the Atlantic and into the Caribbean, affecting Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and southern Continental states including Florida and Texas. The dust can cause problems for those with allergies, asthma and respiratory issues. For a more in-depth look, check out our blog Saharan Dust and Texas Allergies.
What is Particulate Matter?
Particulate Matter (PM) are microscopic particles suspended in the air including smoke, dust, or drops of liquid and can be from natural sources, such as volcanoes, dust storms, and wildfires, or caused by humans, such as from burning fossil fuels, construction, mining and even microplastics. The EPA categorizes particulate matter into 2 sizes: PM10 and PM2.5. The number refers to the size of the diameter of the particle in micrometers. A study from 2005, measured Saharan Dust particles ranging from 0.1 micrometers to 50 micrometers.
Particles that are smaller than 10 micrometers are able to pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs, causing more health effects than larger particles. Short-term exposure to PM10 is associated with worsening respiratory diseases, such as asthma or COPD. Short-term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with hospital admissions for heart or lung issues, asthma attacks, acute and chronic bronchitis, respiratory symptoms and premature mortality, especially in infants, children and older adults with preexisting heart or lung diseases. A study from 2011 in Italy found a strong association between mortality due to circulatory and respiratory diseases on Saharan dust days compared to dust-free days.
1. Check the Air Quality Index (AQI)
The AQI is a measurement of 5 major air pollutants, including particulate matter, regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In order to protect public health, the EPA has set a national air quality standard for each pollutant. The AQI can be tracked for all locations in the US at airnow.gov and provides an air quality rating from good to hazardous. By staying informed of the AQI during Saharan Dust season, you can know what days you should take precautions to protect yourself.
2. Avoid Spending Time Outdoors
One of the easiest ways to avoid symptoms from Saharan Dust is to stay indoors whenever possible. With 100° weather bombarding us this summer, most people don't have to be told twice. But for those who work outside, it's not as simple.
3.Wear a Mask if Going Outside
If you are highly sensitive or suffer from COPD or asthma, studies have shown wearing a face mask can reduce the amount of particulate matter you are breathing in. The type of mask you choose makes a difference. Well-fitting KN95 or N95 masks provide the best chance of blocking particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or smaller.
4. Use a MERV 13 Air Filter
HVAC air filters can provide an extra barrier to keep dust, dander, pollen and particulate matter from recirculating back into your home. Air filters use a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating from 1-16. A higher MERV rating means the filter is able to efficiently filter a smaller particle.
A MERV 13 filters particulate matter between 1.0-3.0 micrometers with 65-85% efficiency. Higher MERV ratings can affect the effectiveness of your HVAC. Be sure to check your HVAC manufacturer guidelines before changing air filters, as higher MERV rated filters can put a strain on your system.
5. Use an Air Purifier or Make Your Own
When choosing an air purifier, make sure you take into consideration the size of the area. Purifiers with a higher Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) will remove more particles in larger areas. Place the purifier in the room you spend the most time in and keep airflow unobstructed. Choose a higher fan speed and longer run time to increase the amount of air filtered.
To make your own purifier, use 4 MERV 13 filters of 2" thickness, a box fan and a piece of cardboard the same size as the box fan.Duct tape the filters along the edges of the cardboard into a cube with airflow arrows pointing in. Place the box fan opposite the cardboard blowing outwards and secure with duct tape.
6. Seasonal Allergy Formula
If you're still dealing with symptoms, our Seasonal Allergy Formula is a tasteless, alcohol-free, homeopathic product formulated for trees, weeds, grass and dust, and is safe for the whole family, including pets. You can find Seasonal Allergy Formula online or in stores throughout Texas.