One look outside should tell you that sandstorm season is well underway in Riyadh! From the top of Al Faisaliah all I can see is sand in all directions. Would it be weird if I said I much prefer the odd sandstorm as opposed to the rain of London? The rain is so depressing when it’s there everyday. Thankfully, Riyadh has only a few days a year when it rains heavily.
Many people also wonder how humans can live in the extreme desert conditions of Riyadh. Well, it’s simple – a bit of human ingenuity and technology, and I’m sure humans can live wherever they want to. Anyway, here’s how we deal with the sandstorms.
Dealing with pollution outside
1) STAY INDOORS – Unless you need to be outside, try and stay indoors during a sandstorm.
2) CLOSE ALL DOORS AND WINDOWS – If you see a sandstorm on the way, it’s best to keep all doors and windows closed. Seal any cracks around windows and use a door draught excluder. These tips will keep the sand out and stop the cool air from escaping when you use the AC in the summer time.
3) MASK AND WATER – Sandstorms and hot days occur hand in hand, it’s wise to buy a mask and always carry water with you if you’re out and about. The best mask to buy is a mask that can filter particulates out. In Riyadh, you can find them in DIY stores or Saco.
You can also buy surgical masks, but they’re not so helpful in filtering the small particles. Surgical masks can be found in Lulu or any pharmacy, and cost about 15 SAR for a packet of 50. But anything is better than nothing, so if this is what you have access to, use it!
If you don’t have access to a mask, then wrap a scarf many times around your mouth. If you’re wearing the male Saudi headdress, you can also wrap it around your mouth as a mask. And even if you don’t have a Saudi headdress, you can make a mask out of twill or denim cloth. These two fabrics are the most tightly woven, so you will at least keep some of the dust particles from being breathed in.
4) WEAR GOGGLES – We often forget to protect our eyes in sandstorms. Sunglasses, if you have them, are also better than nothing,
Dealing with indoor pollution
5) TURN THE AC OFF
A sandstorm is only temporary. Breathing in dust, bacteria and pollutants can have long term effects. Eat cucmbers, melons or dates instead of using the AC to cool the body down.
6) BUY AN AIR PURIFIER
Sandstorms effect allergy and asthma suffers the most, and an air purifier can help reduce indoor pollution. By directing air through a filter, air purifying devices catch the potentially harmful airborne pollutants that cause a range of illnesses and are especially threatening to sufferers of allergies and asthma. When indoor air is sent multiple times through a filter, the machine is able to catch particles both large and small, ultimately purifying the air up to 97% and freeing the inhabitant of unsafe contaminants such as dust, pollen, bacteria, spores and viruses.
7) USE A HUMIDIFIER
As we all might know, Riyadh is very dry. Humidity in the summer can drop to 11% or even lower. A humidifier increases the level of humidity in a given area which can relieve dry skin conditions and reduce static electricity shock. (I cannot remember how many times I got electrocuted because of static electricity lol) Humidifiers are great during sandstorms because they make the air humid and easier to breath in.
Some of the other benefits of humidifiers are –
1. Prevents and relieves dry and scratchy lips and skin.
2. Humidifiers moisten the air which helps eliminate flu, cough, and cold symptoms
3. Moist, humid air helps reduce nosebleeds
4. Helps asthma suffers as the improved air quality moisturizes the respiratory system
5. Added moisture allows the throat and nose to block dust and bacteria from entering
6. Keep infants and young children from getting sick and helps them sleep better – I can personally attest to this. I sleep deeply for 10 hours when the humidifier is on.
7. Increases oxygen levels, thus reducing headaches, fatigue, and overall tiredness
8. Keeps wood floors, furniture, plaster and paint from drying out and separating, cracking or peeling
9. Prevents static shock by reducing the static electricity in the room
8) ADD AN IONIZER
Put simply, recall that feeling in the air after it rains? An ionizer releases negative ions that make it feel like “after rain” all the time. It improves your mood, and makes you feel less tired in the hot summer days.
What are air ions? In nature, there exists both positively charged ions (posions) and negatively charged ions (negions). These molecules have powerful effects on human biology, both negatively and positively affecting us. Although common sense would suggest that positive ions would have a positive effect and negative ions a negative effect- the opposite it true. Negative ions, specifically negatively charged oxygen molecules (different than ozone), have been shown to have beneficial effects on human health.
What is a negative ion? A negative ion is a molecule with a negative charge assigned to it. Negative ions occur commonly throughout nature and can create an overall sense of well-being. Negative ions are found after a rainstorm (falling water creates negative ions) or after a lightning strike. Every home has its own built in negative ionizer- your shower. The smell in the air generated after a rainfall is actually the odor of negatively charged ions in the air.
What are positive ions? Positive ions are positively charged molecules (positively charged carbon dioxide) and are believed to have negative health effects on human health. Positive ions are found in high concentrations before a storm when it is windy and in areas that have high outdoor air pollution. Sitting in traffic on a busy highway or freeway is a great place to get a dose of positive ions. They can leave us fatigued, irritable or even depressed.
What Can Air Ionization (Negative Ions) do for you?
Evidence shows that negative ionizers clean the air of dust, molds, bateria, soot, pollen and household odors
Air ionizers have been reported to be helpful to people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which causes depression, by regulating hormone levels
Air ionizers clean the air of pollen, therefore being helpful for those with hay-fever and other seasonal allergies.
Air ionizers have been reported to help relieve tension and help improve sleep.
Air ionizers help remove the airborne pollutants like pollen, mold spores, second hand smoke etc
9) DRINK LOTUS ROOT TEA – Lotus root has been used to treat respiratory ailments such as coughing that is related to asthma, colds, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and other lung-related illnesses. Some people believe that the lotus root actually cleanses the respiratory system and makes it stronger by melting the mucus down in the body, as well as the lungs.
Even if you don’t believe in the healing power of vegetables, I urge you to try it. You can buy lotus root tea bags online. Lotus root tea may help your lungs remove the dust particles you’ve breathed in
Fresh Lotus root is found in Lulu and other Indian grocery stores from March-May. Dried lotus root can also be found in these stores, and are available all year round. To use dried lotus root, just soak it in filtered water for two hours before use.
To make lotus root tea, put 4 1cm slices of the lotus root into a pot with 1.5 cups of water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 mins before drinking like any other tea.
Lotus root can also be enjoyed in stir fries, tempura or soups.
10) RELAX – This was a tip given to me by a Bedouin. He said sandstorms are nature’s way of telling you to “chill out.” I guess when you’re traveling across the country with your camels and a sandstorm hits, of course there’s nothing to do but wait it out. However, how valid does this tip remain for city dwellers? I’ll leave this one out for you to decide. 🙂
I hope you all stay safe, healthy and hydrated the next few months!
PS The machines above are what we use in every room and so far they’re doing a great job. You can of course research and find a more suitable one to suit your budget and taste. Another thing to add is that you don’t have to use the machines all day and year round. Do what’s suitable for you, your family and your budget.