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Caribbean urged to protect against Saharan dust

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging people to protect themselves against the adverse health effects of a Saharan dust plume covering many parts of the Caribbean.

In a statement, CARPHA noted that the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), in a Dust Bulletin said “it is highly likely that particulate matter levels will be above the 24-hour outdoor air quality guidelines” as established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Saharan dust worsens air quality and increases the levels of particulate matter in the air,” warned CARPHA executive director, Dr Joy St John.

She said that this could be hazardous, especially to small children, older adults, and people with underlying lung conditions and chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.

St John said that dust can also worsen the health symptoms of those who have asthma, allergies, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

CARPHA said that due to the poor air quality, it is encouraging people to protect themselves from Saharan dust including staying indoors as much as possible, and when outdoors, wear a dust mask.

In addition, CARPHA is also recommending that people utilise a HEPA filter indoors to purify air in individual rooms and that those who use medications for pulmonary conditions should carry them at all times and use them as prescribed.

It said that at the first sign of difficulty while breathing, seek professional medical advice immediately and for less severe symptoms, standard allergy medications such as antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays may alleviate symptoms.

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