The Dubai Police advised motorists to be extra cautious.- Photo by Shihab
Dubai - The NCM has also reported light rains over the northeastern part of the UAE, particularly in Dibba and Fujairah.
Like many Dubai residents, Egyptian expat Sherif Soliman decided to cancel their regular family outing this weekend after severe dust storm hit most parts of the country on Thursday.
UAE residents woke up on Thursday to a hazy morning as road visibility was brought below 2,000m by strong gusts of winds that kicked up dust storm across the country from 5am until 6.30pm, according to the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM).
The NCM has also reported light rains over the northeastern part of the UAE, particularly in Dibba, Fujairah, and advised beach goers and residents to be cautious while swimming in the various beaches in the region.
Moreover, the Dubai Police advised motorists to be extra cautious as dust and wind on external and internal roads have resulted in poor horizontal visibility. "Changing lanes should be done gradually with steady speed," the Dubai Police tweeted on Thursday.
An NCM spokesperson told Khaleej Times that dust storm will dissipate over the weekend but Soliman and his family, like other residents, decided not to take risk and opted to stay indoors to be on the safe side to avoid getting any pulmonary infections.
"Sandstorms contain dust particles and its exposure can lead to severe health issues when it get past the body's natural defense mechanisms," Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist at International Modern Hospital Dubai, told Khaleej Times.
"Particles in dust storms are usually coarse and hence don't cause much health issues to general public but people with previous history of breathing issues, especially asthmatic and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are at increased risk," he underlined.
Dr Sainalabdeen noted that "exposure to sandstorm usually causes cough, runny nose, throat irritation, wheeze, acute asthmatic attack, eye irritation/redness and headache".
There is considerable increase in number of patients coming to emergency department with ailments secondary to dusty weather, the doctor added.
Meanwhile, the weather forecast for today, according to the NCM, will be hazy and partly cloudy at times as the temperature will tend to decrease. The northwesterly to southwesterly wind will have speed from 15 to 25kmph, reaching 35kmph.
On Saturday, weather will be fair to partly cloudy and hazy at times over some areas as temperature tends to increase. The southeasterly to northeasterly winds will reach 35kmph at times and there will be slight to moderate waves in the Arabian Gulf and in Oman Sea.
On Sunday, it will be hazy weather in general and partly cloudy at times over some areas, especially eastwards. The southeasterly wind speed will be from 20 to 30kmph with maximum speed reaching 40kmph at times, causing blowing dust/sand over the exposed areas.
Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist at International Modern Hospital Dubai, says the following precautions are advisable during dust storms:
1-Spend as little time outside as possible, avoid outdoor exercises and keep windows and doors closed.
2-When you go out, cover your nose and mouth with mask or damp cloth to reduce the inhalation of dust particles
3-Keep the car windows closed and opt for air-conditioning instead of fresh air
4-Remain hydrated and carry a supply of water
5-Whenever eye is irritated, avoid rubbing of eyes ,rinse with water as eye infection is common in this climate. Wear goggles and you should be extra careful if you use contact lenses
6-Asthmatic patients should always carry their emergency reliever medications as advised by the physician (like inhaler Salbutamol) with them.
7-Seek medical help at the earliest if you have cough, wheeze, breathing difficulty, chest pain or chest discomfort after exposure
Expert prescribes awareness campaign on dangers of dust stormsAccording to a medical expert, it is important to hold an awareness campaign at the change of the season to educate people on the serious dangers sandstorms pose and provide information on the best ways to manage respiratory problems resulting from storms.
Dr Arun Arya, consultant and head of the department of pulmonology at NMC Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said: "Sandstorms are a potential cause of bacterial and viral infections, chiefly among those with weaker immune systems, such as the elderly and children or those with chronic lung disease and smokers."
He told Khaleej Times that due to the large amount of pollens that these storms carry, allergies commonly known as allergic rhinitis are reported. In severe cases and if left untreated, allergic rhinitis can lead to asthma, often even in patients with no previous history of the illness.
Sandstorms are defined as powerful gusts of wind carrying sand and dust particles with them. They occur predominantly in the desert areas and are a particular problem in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf where there are large areas of desert land and are most frequent during the months of April and May when winds in these areas are the highest. At their powerful best, they can completely blanket the surrounding area making it difficult to see and breathe rendering the skyline to appear orange or brown owing to the massive amounts of sand and dust in the air. If a sandstorm is particularly bad, a single storm may last anywhere from 18 to 20 hours.
Sharing as an example of the health risk of sandstorms, Dr Arya recalled that in 2012, one single sandstorm hit Saudi Arabia, affecting over 400 citizens, who were admitted to hospital for respiratory diseases. Almost a quarter of those admitted to the hospital were children, as they are the most vulnerable to sandstorms.
In the UAE, asthma is one of the most chronic illnesses that put individuals at severe risk of respiratory complications particularly due to sandstorms.
"Residents should don face masks, and rush to the nearest medical facility in case they face breathing difficulties. They should stay indoors and make use of home remedies like a gargle and steam inhalation morning and before going to bed in the night, to keep the respiratory tract free of dust allergens," Dr Arya underlined.
He added: "Frequent episodes of uncontrolled asthma can severely affect the quality of life for patients, causing them to constantly feel fatigued and face a mounting financial burden due to the direct costs of medical treatment as well as the indirect costs, such as days off work or school. In severe cases untreated asthma can in fact lead to pneumonia or respiratory failure and can be fatal in some instances."
"Awareness campaigns to help asthmatics to better manage their disease are crucial to hold in the domiciliary and family medicine clinics," Dr. Arya concluded.