Dust storms

Brisbane experienced a large dust storm (the Red Dawn dust storm) in September 2009. This storm storm severely affected Brisbane's air quality and visibility. Dust storms may have an adverse effect on your health, particularly if you already have breathing-related problems.

Health effects

Particles in dust storms are normally coarse and do not pose a serious health threat to the general public. Coarse dust particles generally only reach as far as the inside of the nose, mouth or throat. Some people with pre-existing breathing problems, such as asthma and emphysema, may experience difficulties.

If you have asthma or a respiratory condition and you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, or chest pain, follow your treatment plan. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.

The most common symptoms experienced during a dust storm are irritation to the eyes and upper airways. Dust storms may also:

  • trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks
  • cause serious breathing-related problems.

People who may be more at risk than others are:

  • infants, children and adolescents
  • elderly people
  • people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema
  • people with heart disease
  • people with diabetes.


Protect yourself by:

  • staying indoors, with the windows and doors closed
  • avoiding vigorous exercise, especially if you have asthma, diabetes or a breathing-related condition.

If you have to drive:

  • reduce your speed
  • pull off the road if visibility is less than 100 metres
  • switch off your air conditioning to reduce the amount of dust entering your car.

More information

Last updated: 9 May 2019