Yellow dust protection needs more than a mask

By Korea Herald

Comprehensive action needed to prevent diseases during dry and dusty season, doctors say

  • Published : Mar 7, 2013 - 20:14
  • Updated : Mar 7, 2013 - 20:14
Wearing facial masks during sandstorm season is essential to prevent people from inhaling dust particles, but experts say there is more that can be done to prevent diseases such as respiratory infections, eye inflammation and dermatitis often caused by yellow dust blowing in from Inner Mongolia.

Recent findings have shown that yellow dust is even more dangerous than previously thought. Yellow dust contains particles of dust and metal, but also germs, researchers said.

According to Seoul Health and Environment Institute, concentrations of germs in the air surged sevenfold during the yellow dust seasons between 2008 and 2010. Concentrations of viruses reached 2,210 colony forming units, or CFUs, per cubic meter when the sandstorm engulfed the nation in the past three years, it said in a report. The report added that yellow dust had a large amount of bacillus, blamed for causing food poisoning and pneumonia.
This Feb. 28 photo shows a woman with a facial mask standing on the top of Namsan Mountain in central Seoul when yellow dust from western China reached the city. (Yonhap News)

“When yellow dust enters the human body through the respiratory system, it often includes germs that have a risk of causing pneumonia or respiratory infections. So, it is better for the elderly and toddlers to stay indoors if yellow dust starts to blow in,” said Kwon Oh-jeong, a doctor at Samsung Medical Center.

Kwon suggested reducing outdoor activities as much as possible because people might end up inhaling contaminated air while jogging or playing football.

People need to wear masks, not those used during the winter time but those with a filtering function outdoors.

Wash your face and hands and brush your teeth as frequently as possible and drink plenty of water to prevent skin dehydration and excrete impurities from the body. Keeping your immune system stable by eating vitamin-rich and high-protein food is another method, Kwon said.

Clothes need to be washed immediately after returning from work and school and avoid walking in the rain. Keeping the air quality clean and humid indoors is also important, the doctor said.

There are people who suffer from skin irritation not just because of the dust blowing in from China but also because the weather gets drier.

A light shower is recommended rather than having a long and hot bath to prevent skin irritation. Excessive use of bath soap or scrubs could also make one’s skin drier and don’t forget to apply moisturizers, said Lee Kwang-hoon, a doctor of dermatology at Severance Hospital in Seoul, adding that people should avoid spicy food, smelly fish and excessive drinking.

To avoid skin exposure to the air, try long sleeve shirts and wear eye glasses rather than contact lenses to prevent eye inflammation.

By Cho Chung-un (