Haze alert: Spain faces air quality dilemma

how to stay safe from Spanish haze

Image of haze weather conditions, Credit: Feranza/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

As Spain braces itself for a new haze event this weekend, prompted by a warm air mass from North Africa, it’s crucial to understand the potential impacts.

The Spanish State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) confirmed that this weekend, April 13 and 14, Spain will experience significant worsening of air quality due to haze.

This warm air carries dust from the Sahara, affecting visibility and health. Dr Luis Manuel Entrenas, a leading pulmonologist at Quironsalud Cordoba Hospital, has voiced concerns regarding the heightened risks, particularly for those with respiratory conditions.

Protecting respiratory health

Dr Entrenas explains that the haze comprises suspended desert dust, which can be particularly harmful depending on its density.

According to El Periodico de España, Dr Entrenas explained that people with respiratory issues often have bronchial hyperreactivity, which means their airways are more sensitive and react strongly to certain triggers, ‘that would not cause symptoms or would be very mild in a person without respiratory pathologies.’

Given this, individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are advised to take extra precautions. These include wearing a mask outdoors and avoiding physical activities like moderate exercise during high-density haze periods.

Combating haze and pollution

Another layer of concern is the combination of haze with existing atmospheric pollution, which includes particles from industrial activities and vehicle emissions.

This mix can exacerbate the health risks, particularly for chronic respiratory diseases. Dr Entrenas warns about the severe impact of air pollution on health, noting its role in causing or aggravating diseases, especially asthma and COPD.

Managing eye irritations

Dr Angel Garcia, an ophthalmologist at Vithas Eurocanarias Instituto Ophthalmologico, points out that eye irritation and itching are common during dense haze episodes.

He recommends, ‘Carry out eye washes with physiological saline’ and ‘Frequently use artificial lubricants/tears.’

He strongly advises against rubbing the eyes, as it can harm the ocular surface. For persistent symptoms, Dr Garcia suggests visiting an ophthalmological emergency room, especially for those with pre-existing eye conditions or recent surgeries.

This haze episode serves as a reminder that one’s environment and health are inextricably linked, urging those at risk to take necessary measures to protect themselves during adverse weather conditions.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.