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News & Announcements

Allergy to Saharan Dust can mimic symptoms of COVID-19

Nov 2, 2021

Learn how to differentiate between symptoms of common allergies and those of COVID-19.

Respiratory therapist explains differences and how to stay safe, well

(San Antonio, TX, June 26, 2020) An unwelcomed visitor in the form of a giant dust plume could cloud our judgment when it comes to COVID-19. The Saharan Dust that travelled nearly 5,000 miles from across the Atlantic Ocean has arrived. The dust is expected to linger in San Antonio and that could cause problems for many with allergies, and make matters worse for those with COVID-19. Richard Broyles, RT, who practices at Baptist Health System, said respiratory problems caused by the Saharan Dust can mimic those of COVID-19. “Many of the symptoms are similar such as coughing, wheezing, chest congestion and flu-like body aches. But one sign it’s not just allergies is fever,” Broyles said. “Allergies don’t cause fever, but COVID-19 can because it is a virus. So monitor your temperature and seek care if your temperature rises.”

Broyles said the Saharan Dust will not put people at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, but will exacerbate respiratory symptoms. "If someone has COVID-19 and is exposed to the dust, they can experience increased coughing and chest tightness,” he said.

Broyles recommends the following to avoid respiratory complications and illness:

  1. Wear a face mask to protect yourself from breathing in the dust and to prevent the spread of germs though airborne droplets when you cough;
  2. Avoid the outdoors where exposure to the dust and other irritants is inevitable for the next two weeks;
  3. Take over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications as recommended by a physician;
  4. Those with Asthma who experience trouble breathing or shortness of breath, should use their inhalers as directed by their physician and seek emergency care as necessary;
  5. Monitor for other symptoms that could signal the COVID-19 virus including, fever, loss of taste or smell, nausea/vomiting, sore throat, chills, body aches, headache, diarrhea; and
  6. See a physician immediately if symptoms persist or worsen.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

View the news story from CBS affiliate KENS-TV on this topic featuring Baptist Health System expert Richard Broyles, RT