Saharan dust coming to Florida: Why it can make you think you have this virus

This massive cloud of dust is currently moving across the Atlantic and will arrive in Florida on Wednesday. Forecasters say it will be sticking around through at least Saturday of next week – which could be bad news for those with allergies and if you’re suffering from COVID-19.

Last year when the dust cloud loomed over parts of the United States, Richard Broyles with Baptist Health System, said the dust could cause respiratory problems that mimic COVID-19 symptoms. 

RELATED: Massive Saharan dust cloud headed for Central Florida

"Many of the symptoms are similar such as coughing, wheezing, chest congestion and flu-like body aches. But one sign it’s not just allergies is fever," Broyles said. "Allergies don’t cause fever, but COVID-19 can because it is a virus. So monitor your temperature and seek care if your temperature rises."

For those who currently have COVID-19, Broyles say if they are exposed to the dust, they could experience chest tightness and increased coughing. 

To help avoid respiratory issues and illness, Broyles recommends the following: 

  1. Wear a face mask to protect yourself from breathing in the dust and to prevent the spread of germs when you cough
  2. Avoid the outdoors where exposure to the dust and other irritants is inevitable
  3. Take over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications as recommended by a physician
  4. Those with Asthma who experience trouble breathing or shortness of breath, should use their inhalers as directed by their physician and seek emergency care as necessary
  5. Monitor for other symptoms that could signal the COVID-19 virus including, fever, loss of taste or smell, nausea/vomiting, sore throat, chills, body aches, headache, diarrhea; and
  6. See a physician immediately if symptoms persist or worsen.

According to the FOX 35 Storm Team, models show the dust will be thickest over the Florida peninsula on Wednesday.

When the sun is lowest on the horizon, its rays have to travel through more of Earth's atmosphere, creating more pronounced oranges, reds and pinks in the sky. 

WEATHER ALERTS: Download the FOX 35 Storm Team Weather app for live radar, severe weather alerts, and daily forecast reports on your phone 

If you do catch one of these beautiful sunrises, make sure to share it with us on social media. Another positive of this dust: it can help suppress any tropical development in the area. 

Last summer, wind carried nearly 24 tons of dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa across the Atlantic Ocean, to North and South America, according to NASA. The 2020 dust storm, nicknamed Godzilla, was so big that astronauts on the International Space Station could see it.

We will continue to track these conditions in the FOX 35 Storm Center.