ABU DHABI // Air-quality experts have issued a warning over dust levels in the air.
There were large dust storms on 31 days in 2012, up from 25 days in 2011. On 129 days, about a third of the year, the amount of dust in the air was higher than the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi considers safe for those suffering respiratory conditions.
"People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children are considered sensitive and therefore they are at greater risk," said Ruqaya Mohamed, manager of the agency's air quality section.
"They should reduce their exposure to ambient air, for example by staying indoors, reducing physical activity or consulting a physician."
Besides natural causes, such as the weather, man-made pollution from vehicles and industrial facilities also increase the amount of dust in the air.
Air quality is measured by 18 monitoring stations throughout Abu Dhabi and the agency plans to have another two in operation by September.
The data they gather is published on a website (adairquality.ae) maintained by the agency and updated hourly. The agency and the Health Authority Abu Dhabi urge anyone with respiratory problems to visit the website.
The environment agency and the health authority are targeting sufferers such as Fahd Chaudhry, 34, who suffered his first asthma attack in December 2011.
His first reaction when he received the diagnosis in hospital was disbelief. "I am not asthmatic," he told doctors. "You are now," they replied.
Mr Chaudhry, born in Dubai, spent his childhood and early adult years enjoying an active outdoor lifestyle. Struggling to breathe was not a problem he had encountered.
"I thought maybe I was having a heart attack," he said.
In fact, he had joined the 9 per cent of adults and 13 per cent of children who suffer from asthma.
"There are certain things you have no control of, such as the dust, it is nature's will," he said. "But it does not mean you are helpless."
To help to manage his symptoms, he took a food allergy test. The findings encouraged him to cut down on eggs, gluten products and dairy.
"I had to extract many of these things from my diet and the result has been very good," he said.
"The change in the diet made a vary big difference and I also started using some homoeopathic medicines."
His regimen includes alternative healing therapies such as reiki and yogic breathing exercises.
"I started doing that to just test if these things really work," he said.
"So far, I have not had an attack or been sick becaue of changes in weather."