Sahara dust trigger

More Barbadians are presenting to their doctors and local pharmacists, complaining of respiratory ailments and allergies due to the persistence of Sahara dust in the atmosphere in recent months.

Head of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society, Marlon Ward-Rogers, said the demand for antihistamines had been higher when compared to the same period in previous years.

“The requests for allergy medication have been much higher than what we have seen in previous years due to the haze. We must bear in mind that for the last five to six years we have been seeing an increase in Sahara dust around this time, but this appears to be worse than most years. So, pharmacists have been noticing an increase in the number of people with allergies and this is most noticeable when the haze is at its worst,” Ward-Rogers said.

The Barbados Pharmaceutical Society head said, fortunately, drugs like antihistamines, respiratory inhalers and eye drops were not affected by global supply chain issues and were in stock.

The Barbados Meteorological Services recently issued an advisory about a plume of Sahara dust which had been affecting the country since last Thursday, with visibility forecast to less than ten kilometres. The advisory further noted that dust concentrations were likely to decrease by the middle of this week. 

Family physician Dr Adrian Lorde said the medical fraternity was concerned about a noticeable uptick in the complaints of respiratory ailments, nasal allergies and irritated eyes.  

He said the impact of the dust might be more pronounced this year than last year because fewer people were wearing masks now that the COVID-19 pandemic had abated. 

“I am seeing and hearing of an increased number of persons with respiratory problems and eye issues related to the Sahara dust. Anecdotally, it seems to be more so now than previous times. In recent years during the lockdown and the pandemic, people were wearing masks and maybe that is why we were not seeing as many cases as we are now,” Lorde said.

“I am getting the impression from my practice that there is an increase in the number of persons who have been exposed and who have been suffering from the effects of the Sahara dust,” he added.

The physician pointed out that people prone to allergic reactions and for whom nasal sprays had been prescribed were often only using them after they were affected, as opposed to taking the recommended preventative dosages. 

“These people with allergic reactions to the dust are not taking the precautions of using nasal sprays that prevent this thing from happening. Instead, quite a number of them are waiting until they are affected before using their prescription nasal sprays.

“So I think that we need to educate them more to prevent the symptoms, especially among the population of young children, the elderly and the asthmatic. These groups are prone to respiratory difficulties and need to be doubly careful,” he said.

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