Sandstorms are also known as dust storms but there are a few little differences. Both pick up loose particles off the ground such as sand, clay and rocks and blow it across the land creating diverse problems.
Sandstorms is the common term as this meteorological phenomena occurs over a desert region, where sand is the main particle that is transported by the wind, but may include clay and rocks. Sandstorms occur in arid and semi-arid regions where high winds blowing across deserts pick up the sand creating a cloud or wall and blow it over great distances. These walls may be as high as 5000 feet.
Dust storms carry more finer particles over greater distances which may occur anywhere land erosion is present and where the storm affects an urban area. Have a look at the Droughts and Famines page for more information on dust storms caused by land erosion due to overly dry conditions.
If you are caught in a sandstorm or dust storm, get inside a shelter if possible. If not, cover your eyes, nose and mouth to protect yourself. People have gotten sick by inhaling the particles in a sandstorm which may cause respiratory problems and disease. Sand particles are larger than dust particles, and will pose a greater threat to your respiratory tract and therefore your survival as well.
If you are driving a vehicle and you are caught in a storm, park off the road, close the vents and wait it out.
Particles may even travel across the earth affecting climate. Agriculture and economies have been affected by these storms as well.
It may be as real a threat in some countries in particular as a hurricane is to others.
Here are some links for you to learn more about sandstorms and dust storms.