Allergy & Respiratory

One of the wonders of the human body is that it can defend itself against harmful invaders such as viruses or bacteria. But sometimes the defenses are too aggressive, and harmless substances such as dust, mold or pollen are mistakenly identified as dangerous. The immune system then rallies its defenses, launching a host of complex chemical weapons to attack and destroy the supposed enemy. In the process, some unpleasant and, in extreme cases, life-threatening symptoms may be experienced by the allergy-prone individual.

 

There are hundreds of ordinary substances that can trigger allergic reactions. Among the most common are plant pollens, molds, household dust (dust mites), animal dander, foods, medicines, feathers and insect stings. These triggers are called "allergens." An allergic reaction may occur anywhere in the body, but usually appears in the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat and lungs - places where special immune system cells are stationed to fight off invaders that are inhaled, swallowed or come in contact with the skin.

 

Asthma and allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic factors. While it is true that asthma and allergies develop more commonly in children, they can occur for the first time at any age or, in some cases, recur after many years of remission. Although the exact genetic factors are not yet understood, the tendency to asthma and allergies is linked to heredity. In susceptible people, factors such as hormones, stress, smoke, perfume or other environmental irritants may also play a role.

 

Dust storms are common in parts of the world with dry land areas. Dust storms reduce air quality and visibility, and may have adverse effects on health, particularly for people who already have breathing-related problems.


Dust particles vary in size from coarse (non-inhalable), to fine (inhalable), to very fine (respirable).

 

Coarse dust particles generally only reach as far as the inside of the nose, mouth or throat. Smaller or fine particles can, however, get much deeper into the sensitive regions of the respiratory tract and lungs. These smaller dust particles have a greater potential to cause serious harm to your health.


Commonly, particles in dust storms tend to be coarse or non-respirable and do not pose a serious health threat to the general public. However, some people with pre-existing breathing-related problems, such as asthma and emphysema, may experience difficulties.

 

The most common symptoms experienced during a dust storm are irritation to the eyes and upper airways.

 

People who may be most vulnerable are:

  • infants and young children
  • the elderly
  • people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema
  • people with heart disease.

For these people, exposure to a dust storm may :

  • trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks
  • cause serious breathing-related problems
  • contribute to cardiovascular or heart disease
  • contribute to reduced life span.

Prolonged exposure to airborne dust can lead to chronic breathing and lung problems, and possibly heart disease.

 

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