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Yellow dust

During the spring, there are increased changes in the daily temperature and biorhythms become unstable so that the body’s immune system becomes weaker, making you more susceptible to diseases. The spring season is particularly a concern for children who have weak immune systems but are highly active, or other people who have allergic conditions or respiratory diseases. 

Yellow dust can cause various diseases, or make preexisting conditions worse. The main conditions associated with it include respiratory disease, ocular disease and skin conditions.

The yellow dust in the atmosphere can irritate the respiratory tract to cause breathing problems or throat pain. Patients with allergic rhinitis can experience worsening symptoms with exposure to yellow dust. In severe cases, antihistamines may need to be used for symptomatic relief.

Patients with respiratory conditions are advised to stay indoors if yellow dust is severe. Maintain a clean indoor atmosphere by using air filters and increase the indoor humidity with an air humidifier. When the daily temperature difference exceeds 10 degrees Celsius, the body’s ability to maintain balance becomes weaker, reducing our immune system and making us more susceptible to catching a cold. During seasonal changes, the differences in daily temperature exceed our ability to adapt to the weather, making us weak and tired. The symptoms of a cold include sore throat, coughing, runny nose, fever, productive cough and diarrhea.

Severe yellow dust and dry conditions can irritate the eyes, causing dry eyes and conjunctivitis. The main symptoms of these include itchiness, teary and red eyes, and a feeling of having a foreign body in the eye. It helps to wear protective glasses when going outside in the dust, and washing the eyes and nose with lukewarm water when you return home. Avoid using salty water as it can irritate the eyes. You can use cold water in an irrigator against the eyes and blink several times, or use eye packs to relieve symptoms. If symptoms persist, please see a specialist doctor for appropriate treatment, rather than self-treating.

The skin can also be irritated by yellow dust, pollen and dust, causing symptoms of irritation, itchiness and rashes. The most important step in skin care is washing, and not using products or makeup. Applying skin cream before going outside can help create a protective skin barrier.

Points to note during spring when yellow dust is present

Wear a mask when going outside. Yellow dust is fine-particle dust, which can be filtered out significantly by masks.

Avoid going outside when the dust is severe. It is advised that you stay indoors rather than going outside in the dust. This is because yellow dust not only contains dust particles, but also heavy metal particles. Make sure to avoid going outside as much as possible when there are yellow dust warnings.

Children with weak immune systems should take particular care. Patients who are immunodeficient, newborns and those on chemotherapy should avoid going outside. Microorganisms in the environment are more harmful to those with weak immune systems.

At home, clean indoors more frequently than usual to clear away the dust from the outside.

Wash your hands and face after going outside to maintain personal hygiene.

By Ahn Kang-mo

The author is a doctor at the Department of Pediatrics in Samsung Medical Center in Seoul and lectures at Sungkyunkwan University’s School of Medicine. ― Ed.