중앙데일리

Avoiding the perils of yellow sand

The death rate of patients with respiratory disease rises by 5 percent during a yellow sand storm.

Mar 17,2007
“Yellow sand” refers to the sandy dust that rises from the deserts of northern China and Mongolia and is blown toward other countries. Winds that blow between March and May pick up fine dust particles from the dried out earth and pollutes the atmospheres of Japan, Korea and China. Yellow sand carries hazardous substances such as cadmium, lead, aluminum, nitrogen and sulfuric oxide and therefore poses a serious health risk.
The yellow sand phenomenon is particularly dangerous in the spring, with its wide daily temperature range and dry air. The irregular bio-rhythms that are typical of the season make people vulnerable to infection and disease. When yellow winds blow, hospitals treating respiratory, ophthalmic and dermatological complaints get crowded.
Yellow sand irritates the bronchus. Even a healthy adult may have difficulty breathing. Children, the elderly, or patients suffering from asthma or allergies are especially at risk. According to professor Cho Sang-heon at Seoul National University Hospital’s internal allergy department, the death rate of patients with respiratory disease rises by 5 percent during yellow sand storms.
Yellow sand can be devastating to asthma patients because sulfuric oxide in yellow sand can damage their delicate respiratory systems. Runny nose or congestion in allergy patients also becomes worse.
Here are some tips. First, stay indoors. If you have to go out, wear a mask. Second, take medical prescriptions regularly. Asthma patients should always carry inhalers, and allergic rhinitis patients should have antihistamines handy. Third, keep the respiratory organs moist. Drink enough water, and run humidifiers. Fourth, do not exercise outdoors during a yellow sand storm. Exercising makes one breathe through the mouth, which cannot fully filter out hazardous substances.
The eyes are also vulnerable. The most common complication caused by yellow sand is conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye. Major symptoms are redness, excessive tearing, and a gritty feeling in the eye. Professor Kim Hee-young at the Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital ophthalmology department recommends patients wear eye glasses rather than contact lenses during yellow sand storms, because the fine dust particles can get between the eye and the contact lenses, causing conjunctivitis.
To prevent pinkeye, wear protective glasses when going out, and rinse the eyes with lukewarm water afterwards. If irritation occurs, rinse with tap water or hold ice on the eye.
Xerophthalmia, or dry eye, is another condition affected by yellow sand. This worsens when the eyes are exposed to dry air, or when the eyes’ immunity declines. Those with dry eye should lubricate their eyes with artificial tear drops at least six times a day.
Yellow sand causes the skin to become irritated because harmful substances penetrate the pores. The skin becomes more sensitive in spring because of changes in daily temperatures and the dry air.
Acne, dermatitis and dry skin are some of the troubles caused by yellow sand.
Fine dust particles block the pores causing acne to break out. The heavy metal substances irritate the skin to cause dermatitis, and the spring climate causes dry skin. Dry skin breaks out on different parts of the body in spring than in winter. In the spring, dry skin occurs on exposed surfaces such as the face or the hands, but in winter, it is often found on the limbs or the trunk. Ana Dermatology Clinic’s chief resident, Seo Dong-hye, says moisture, hygiene and avoiding skin irritants are useful to minimize damage.
When outdoors, apply enough sun block or moisture cream on the face, neck and hands to form a protective layer over the skin, and wear long sleeves. Always remember to cleanse the skin thoroughly with cleansing products afterwards. Use lukewarm water, because hot water dries out the skin by removing oil. Apply lotion to moisturize the skin after cleansing.
Masks are a must during dense yellow sand. Wearing masks tightly can stop yellow sand from entering the respiratory system almost entirely. A wide variety of products can be found in supermarkets.
Most masks have three layers and can capture fine particles of 10 to 1000 micro millimeters. If you wear glasses, check for products with nose rests. Three dimensional masks are comfortable to wear.
Masks can be purchased on-line or from pharmacists and the price ranges from 2,000 won ($2) to 10,000 won. Products that cover the whole face to block ultraviolet rays are also available.


By Park Tae-kyun JoongAng Ilbo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]



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