Every year as spring turns to summer, dust from the Sahara desert travels across the Atlantic Ocean and lands in the the Caribbean, including in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean, causing surprising effects to health.
The unique weather phenomenon can cause respiratory symptoms to flare up, as a result of which local authorities have told travelers to exercise increased precaution to protect themselves from harmful health effects.
Here’s everything Cancun travelers need to know about this unusual weather event:
What Is Sahara Desert Dust?
Located in Africa, the Sahara desert is one of the world’s largest sources of sand, and each year, winds carry massive quantities of microscopic dust and minerals across the Atlantic during spring and summer.
While the phenomenon can lead to some awe-inspiring and colorful sunsets, it’s also a major health risk for some residents and travelers, especially for those that suffer from respiratory complications.
This week, Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean are forecast to have high levels of dust and sand particles originating from the Sahara desert, and the phenomenon could persist for several days.
Quintana Roo Authorities Issue Health Warning Over Dust
While mostly harmless, high quantities of sand particles in the atmosphere can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms, especially after being exposed to it for longer periods of time.
This week, the state governor of the Mexican of Quintana Roo published a notice advising the population to take precautions during the weather event.
In the warning, the governor also urges people to follow the advice of authorities and to keep an eye on the weather forecast so as to avoid exposure to the potentially harmful dust.
The unusual weather phenomenon can last anywhere from one to three days at a time, depending on the size of the dust cloud as well as other meteorological factors like wind, rain, and humidity.
Due to its geographical features, the Mexican Caribbean is susceptible to higher quantities of dust compared to other regions, with the peak of the weather event occurring in April and May.
“Take precautions to protect yourself from the cloud of Sahara dust, which is currently affecting several parts of Quintana Roo,” the governor said on social media.
Dust particles can irritate the delicate tissue of the respiratory system, as well as the mouth, nose, and eyes. Exposure to dust can also cause coughing, itchiness, and difficulty breathing, although it rarely causes severe complications.
Civil protection agencies are also working to improve public awareness over the weather phenomenon, especially among those who suffer from respiratory conditions like asthma, as well as elderly people.
According to experts, it is advisable for risk groups to stay indoors when a considerable amount of dust is present in the atmosphere.
The agency also recommends that vulnerable populations use face masks and goggles to protect the lungs and eyes from irritation. While healthy travelers can generally enjoy the outdoors regardless of the dust, they are urged to head indoors if they notice any unpleasant symptoms.
During the daytime, elevated dust and sand particles may resemble clouds and block sunshine, although during the evening, they are known to cause beautiful and colorful sunsets, which make for stunning pictures.
When mixed with precipitation, dust from the Sahara can coat the ground with a layer of red to brown rain, as a result of which residents should park their cars indoors whenever possible.
The peak of the Sahara dust phenomena is expected to hit the Mexican Caribbean over the following weeks, as a result of which travelers should follow weather updates and plan their vacation accordingly.
However, for now, dust levels are comparable to those of previous years as officials continue to prepare for the busy summer travel season.
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