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Saharan dust causing respiratory issues for many as wind carries through Louisiana

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BATON ROUGE - If the heat isn't a good enough reason to avoid the outdoors, allergies may be. For three days, Baton Rouge has been under an air quality alert caused by dust from the Saharan desert.

Dr. Rachael Kermis, a family medicine specialist at Baton Rouge General, says she's seen an influx of patients all with the same complaints.

"Most people come in and you just hear them (coughing) or they're sniffing their nose. A lot of people are battling those allergy respiratory symptoms," Dr. Kermis said.

"The dust particles, from what I was reading, are a little bit bigger than what we normally have coming into Louisiana, and are being filtered by our nose mucosa. That's what is making it flare up extra bad. Your nose is having to deal with new triggers for the allergy."

Dr. Kermis said lingering dust isn't entirely to blame. It's simply the time of year when irritants are in the air, and this is one more to deal with. It's best for people who are sensitive to allergens to stay inside right now.

"It's not an infection where we need to do an antiviral, or an antibiotic, mainly doing antihistamines like Claritin, Zyrtec, using a saline nose spray to rinse out the sand particles from your nose," Dr. Kermis said.

Dr. Kermis says while it is easy to confuse allergies with COVID-19, there is one key difference.

"If it lasts more than four or five days chances are it's more of an allergy-type picture than COVID. Right now with the Omicron variant, COVID is resolving relatively fast," Dr. Kermis said.

If you are sensitive and need to be outside for a period of time, wear a face mask.

The dust should be gone by June 17, and Dr. Kermis said the effects of the dust shouldn't last more than two weeks. The air quality alert is set to expire Wednesday night.

Track the air quality here.

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