Saharan dust cloud over San Antonio irritates residents

Dust from Africa can cause allergy-like symptoms, not treatable with anti-histamines

SAN ANTONIO – That orange haze that has enveloped the city over the past few days is actually a Saharan dust cloud.

Dust from the deserts of Northern Africa travel all the way across the Atlantic into South Texas.

The latest cloud is driving many to doctors offices all over the city.

"Our clinic is full this morning from people who are sick from it," said Dr. Dennis Dilley, allergist with Dilley Allergy & Asthma Specialists.

For those who already suffer from other types of lung disease, the dust can cause serious enough problems that aggressive treatment is required.

"Albuterol to try to open up the airways. Most of the time they are leaving here with a course of steroids, Prednisone, something like that to calm down the inflammation. If there is any evidence of infection, they'll get an antibiotic," said Dilley.

Most people who are bothered by the dust suffer allergy-like symptoms.

If the dust has been bothering you, and you are finding that your favorite antihistamine isn't doing the trick, there's a reason for that.

"Because its an irritant, the mechanisms underlying the reaction aren't histamine driven. So your antihistamines do nothing for you," said Dilley.

In fact, since most antihistamines dry you out, they can be counter-productive.

Instead, Dilley recommends using saline sinus rinses to flush out nasal passages, and frequently rinsing your face with cool water.

Mold particles can attach themselves to the dust particles, so those who suffer from mold allergies can be particularly sensitive to the dust if they aren't already taking medication to alleviate symptoms from dust.

Staying indoors as much as possible until the dust cloud passes is also recommended.

For a list of recent stories John Honore has done, click here.