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Doctor recommends using caution for those with sensitive respiratory illnesses as dust plume passes

Saharan dust travels through the U.S. almost every year. It's expected to pass through East Tennessee in the next few days.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — This weekend is coming with a few more obstacles for people with respiratory illnesses to face. 

Saharan dust travels through the U.S. almost every year. It's expected to pass through East Tennessee in the next few days.

The cloud is one of the thickest on record meaning poor air quality is headed this way. 

Hazy skies will keep many from seeing the Saharan dust as it moves into East Tennessee. You actually may not even realize it's passing through at all. 

Experts said those with sensitive respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD should use caution, especially if they plan on leaving the area. 

"Some of the things we're trying to do for COVID also will help with the dust plume, the masks," said Dr. Todd Rice with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

He said to continue to wear your mask if you have to go out, "You might be doing that hopefully for COVID anyway so kill two birds with one stone."

But recommends staying indoors if you can. "The dust won't get indoors if windows are closed etc. but many can't do that."

For those with undiagnosed asthma, he said you may experience a cough or shortness of breath for a few minutes, but going in an air conditioned building will clear that up. 

"The ones we worry about are the ones with fairly established asthma or COPD. They take medicine for it already and are prone to get exacerbations when they are exposed."

Above all, he said to continue doing what we've been practicing for months now as the dust plume is expected to pass within a few days. 

"It's still important to social distance, stay away and wash your hands. Don't go places if you don't have to go places."


The dust has already been seen in Florida, Texas and Mississippi. 

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