I'm writing a novel and in the opening chapter, one of the main characters finds herself traveling by foot through a very severe sandstorm. I used the character's feelings of choking/suffocating to inspire urgency and tension in the chapter. I made the character think she is going to die if she doesn't escape the sandstorm which eventually causes her to give up on the task at hand and change directions. I later found out that sandstorms don't really literally choke people. Apparently you can breath in a sandstorm even without a face covering. I've never been outside in a sandstorm myself so I don't know from personal experience what its like.
But, since it's (apparently) not likely you will suffocate in a sandstorm, could I still use the characters feeling of choking to inspire urgency? She is obviously panicked, loses sense of direction among other things that go wrong so it wouldn't be out of character for her to think she's dying even if she isn't. With that being said, is it a cheap way to create tension and urgency from something that isn't really a hazard, only seems like it is?
This novel is written in 3rd person if that helps, so the narrator knows the MC is not currently at risk of losing her life.