You’re driving along, watching the beautiful desert scenery roll by, when suddenly you see them—a swirl of dark clouds on the horizon. A sandstorm! There’s no time to slow down; you have to find shelter immediately! Don’t panic! Read this list of 10 tips on how to survive a sandstorm and make it out in one piece.
1) Keep Calm
A sandstorm can be frightening if you’re caught in one unexpectedly. These storms are often unpredictable and hard to see coming, so it’s easy to feel like you have no way out. But there are things you can do to survive: Stay calm, think clearly, and follow these tips to make it through a sandstorm unscathed. After all, you’ve got enough on your plate already with that new project at work—there’s no need to add dust-related stress!
2) Find Shelter
When you’re out in a sandstorm, protecting your eyes and your mouth is vital to keeping yourself safe. But you need to protect more than just your face: Look around you, determine which way the wind is blowing, then seek shelter under an overhang or otherwise protected area. If you have plenty of time before being caught in it, move to a building or another sheltered area. A car can also be great protection from sandstorms—the hood will protect your head from getting scraped and if it has no windows on that side, there’s little chance of glass shards causing injury as well. In some cases, open spaces like deserts are better off left alone during storms; find shelter inside until storm conditions have passed entirely.
3) Pack First Aid Kit
If you get injured during a sandstorm, you’ll want to be able to fix yourself up quickly. Sandstorms can cause minor scratches and cuts as well as larger wounds. Make sure your first aid kit is stocked with antiseptic cream and bandages as well as painkillers, so that you can treat more serious injuries if needed. And also bring along any medications you might need. If you’re going somewhere remote and are in need of supplies, contact your doctor or local hospital ahead of time so they can prepare what’s necessary for your stay. You might even want to pack an extra pair of clothes in case yours get soaked in dust—not fun!
4) Drink Water
Staying hydrated is crucial when traveling, especially if you’re going to be out in scorching heat all day. If you don’t drink enough water, your body will have trouble fighting off sand and other dust that blows around during storms. Dehydration can also cause heat exhaustion, which is marked by headache, dizziness, nausea or muscle cramps. To prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion while traveling in a desert region: Drink at least one gallon of water each day; bring your own bottle of water; sip water throughout your travel time, even if you’re not thirsty; take frequent breaks from activities like hiking to replenish fluids; drink sports drinks if you exercise heavily under hot conditions.
5) Have a Plan B
If you’re facing an oncoming sandstorm, it’s likely your first instinct will be to hunker down and hope it doesn’t kill you. But even in areas where sandstorms are frequent and severe, if one is approaching, there are things you can do to minimize exposure and make it through as unscathed as possible. First, try to get out of its path if possible; a gradual evacuation may give you enough time to get out of danger zones with minimal adverse effects. If that isn’t an option, have some fallback plans (such as building an emergency shelter), so that when your main plan goes sideways (or worse), you still have something that can help keep everyone safe until conditions improve.
6) Change your Clothes if Necessary
A sandstorm is not fun. They can be intense and are often unpredictable, but there are ways to help minimize their intensity and duration. If you know one is coming your way, it’s time to change your clothes if you have any exposed skin. Also, don’t forget to cover your mouth and nose, preferably with a handkerchief or scarf.
7) If Your Vehicle Breaks Down, Stay Put
Getting out of your car in a sandstorm can be deadly. All you’ll see is grit, and before you know it, you’re covered head to toe in fine sand particles. Even if you stay inside your vehicle, make sure all windows are closed and that vents are blocked; exposure to wind speeds over 70 miles per hour can cause permanent damage to your lungs. If you want to breathe during a storm, keep an airtight mask on hand—the kind mountaineers use—and wear goggles to protect your eyes. If you get stuck inside your car in adverse weather conditions, remember: It is safer inside than outside. Stay calm and wait until conditions improve before moving around again.
8) Don’t Hike Alone During One
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot avoid getting caught in a sandstorm, make sure that at least one other person is with you. The other person can help guide you to safety. Additionally, always carry water and extra food with you on your hikes. While hiking alone, it can be very difficult to find enough water in some situations. Carrying extra will ensure that you do not get dehydrated or starve during an unforeseen event like a sandstorm. If possible, store it in sealed bottles or containers so it won’t become contaminated if water becomes scarce while hiking during one of these events. When it comes to food, dried fruit or nuts are best because they don’t require additional water to keep them moist and edible.
9) Get Rest and Avoid Alcohol and Coffee
While you may be tempted to rest less and party hard during your sandstorm vacation, those aren’t really smart choices. You could fall ill or have problems with dehydration if you’re not careful, so be sure to sleep enough during your trip and avoid alcohol and coffee (they dehydrate). Instead, eat well and drink plenty of water! Water is good for your immune system. Also, don’t forget to buy sunscreen. It will protect you from getting too much sun which could give you skin cancer later in life. Also remember to get lots of rest while traveling! You will enjoy your time more when you can take it easy. And trust us...you do not want to miss out on anything because of a migraine headache or being too exhausted!
10) Wear Sunscreen and Sunglasses
It's not quite as necessary as it would be at home, but having sunscreen and sunglasses with you is still a good idea when traveling in desert regions. Your eyes can be especially vulnerable to long-term damage from too much exposure to bright sunlight, so always bring eye protection with you. Also, with all of that blowing sand and no clouds around, your skin will likely start to burn much more quickly than usual; carry some sunblock just in case.
Things can get pretty wild in the desert, and while sandstorms may be rare in your hometown, they’re a part of life in many parts of the world, including large swaths of North Africa and the Middle East. If you ever find yourself caught in one, here are 10 tips on how to survive a sandstorm and make it through until the storm passes