Lubbock dust more than just an annoyance - FOX34 Lubbock

Lubbock dust more than just an annoyance

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

The wind kicks up and the dust blows in resulting in Lubbock turning brown.

For those who have lived here for a while, it is just part of life in West Texas but it could actually be harming you. 

The dust is often made up of many materials other than just dirt.

"Bacteria, viruses, fungus, chemicals," said Dr. James Tarbox, an allergist with Texas Tech Physicians group.

Dr. Tarbox sees patients all the time suffering from the side effects related to the dust.

"I'll see a lot of people that have worsening of runny noses, if they have asthma they might have an asthma attack," he said. "If you get prolonged exposure to dust, especially if it has certain particulates in it like metals, you can start seeing, maybe inflammation of the lungs."

Even for perfectly healthy people, breathing in the particles can have some serious consequences.

"A few years ago a couple physicians here at Tech did a case series on, they had a couple adults admitted to the ICU with really bad pneumonia just from being exposed to a heavy dust storm. So even if you have no underlying lung disease, even if you're outside you can end up severely ill."

It is not just getting sick from the dust that you have to worry about though.

"Blowing dust sometimes, believe it or not is our biggest cause of weather fatalities in the last 15 or 16 years in this area," said Jody James, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lubbock. "We've had about a dozen dust caused fatalities in the last few years here and around 19 across all of West Texas. That's more than we had from tornadoes in that same time period."

If you are going to be outside in the dust Dr. Tarbox said there are a few things you need to keep in mind. 

"It's real important to keep on top of what sort of day it's going to be, whether it's going to be a high allergen day or a high wind day, you just want to make sure you or if you're a parent that your child is taking the appropriate medicine so they can reduce the risk of having a reaction," Dr. Tarbox said.

He also recommends wearing a carbon filtered mask if you are going to be exposed to the dust for extended periods so you can prevent breathing in any unnecessary toxins.

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