Respiratory disease among military personnel in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield

Am J Public Health. 1993 Sep;83(9):1326-9. doi: 10.2105/ajph.83.9.1326.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine whether respiratory disease due to crowded living conditions and high levels of suspended and blowing sand had a major adverse impact on US military personnel during Operation Desert Shield.

Methods: A questionnaire survey was administered to 2598 combat troops stationed in Northeast Saudi Arabia for a mean of 102 days. Samples of surface sand from seven different locations were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction.

Results: Among surveyed troops, 34.4% reported a sore throat, 43.1% complained of a cough, 15.4% complained of chronic rhinorrhea, and 1.8% were unable to perform their routine duties because of upper respiratory symptoms. Evaluation of sleeping accommodations indicated that complaints of a sore throat and cough were most closely associated with sleeping in air-conditioned buildings; in contrast, complaints of rhinorrhea were associated with exposure to the outdoor environment while living in tents. Sand samples consisted mostly of quartz, with just 0.21% by weight of respirable size (< 10 microns in diameter).

Conclusions: These findings indicate that upper respiratory complaints were frequent among Operation Desert Shield troops and were related both to the troops' housing and to their exposure to the outside environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cough / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel*
  • Pharyngitis / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • United States
  • Warfare