By Adetutu Adetule
Harmattan is a very dry, dusty easterly or north-easterly wind on the West African coast, occurring from December to February.
Gradually we have drifted from raining season to the harmattan season; December is just the start of harmattan, and there is still more to expect in the coming year (January).
The harmattan wind has already started blowing in some parts of Nigeria; therefore, we must take necessary steps to avoid being affected badly by climate change.
According to Earth science, the harmattan winds are formed by the dry, dusty Saharan desert winds from the north and the cold Atlantic ocean winds from the south.
It is part of the Northeast Trade Wind circulation strengthened by a low-pressure centre over the north coast of the Gulf of Guinea and a high-pressure centre located over northwestern Africa in winter.
This season comes in to form the cold and hot; the early hours of the day between 4:00 am to the setting of the sun is always hazy, cool, and extremely dry, while from noon to about 5:00 pm, the sun is on the high side, less rainy and dusty.
And with no surprise, it brings its usual dusty winds, dry air, and thick hazes. Not to mention, it brings along diseases as well.
Although the harmattan is very dusty, cool weather that could be hazardous to some people’s health, it is proper to ensure good hygiene during the season and enjoy it to the fullest.
However, some people enjoy the harmattan season, while others do not like the weather.
Some people like the harmattan while others do not because it triggers allergies
As uncomfortable as it gets, let’s not forget the sweet comfy night sleeps it brings as well. Just as every other season, this season comes with its lovely and unfavorable parts, and thus, helpful tips are needed to adapt properly.
It is essential to drink a minimum of four (4) liters of water a day (equivalent to eight sachets of water) to stay hydrated for the proper functioning of the kidneys and other metabolic processes. One of the most obvious features of this season is the dryness and cracking of the skin.
Dry air takes away moisture from the skin leaving the body scaly and for most of us, who surely don’t want to look this way; water-retaining creams and oils are recommended. Frequent bathing is also helpful for washing off dust and dirt carried by air.
The use of a good moisturizer, like Antibacterial Skin Jelly, can give you soft skin all through the season. This skin jelly will also keep you safe from 99.9% of germs – which is particularly important during these times.
Lips become extremely dry in cold months particularly during the harmattan season, when dry air strips off all the moisture from lips. The delicate skin of lips finds it difficult to cope with these harsh climatic conditions. Lips crack and bleed due to lack of moisture and it is a real irritating condition.
Lip cream or balm may also be useful for preventing the lips from drying. Patients with asthma are advised to always move with their inhalers because they are highly predisposed in this season to frequent asthmatic attacks.
The air not only carries dust, it carries pollen and other allergens, which can irritate the mucosal surfaces of the nose and precipitate allergies. These allergies range from sneezing to runny nose and catarrh.
Respiratory diseases like Catarrh and sneezing are the most common and can occur also as symptoms of a cold. It is advisable that people wear thick or layered clothing to keep themselves warm and especially to cover themselves at night.
It is also important to wear nose masks or use clean handkerchiefs especially when it is windy. Nosebleeds are often common and except there is an underlying condition, there is no cause for alarm because the dry air can crack the delicate skin inside the nose, rupturing minor blood vessels and causing it to bleed.
Usually, the bleeding should stop after a while and if it persists, medical personnel should be sought. Taking a lot of fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C greatly helps to boost immunity needed in fighting off infections and staying healthy so make sure you don’t forget to take an Orange or Pineapple after that Christmas chicken.
How to Stay Healthy During Harmattan
Stay hydrated-Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration- Constant hydration by drinking lots of clean water helps to protect the skin from the excessive loss of fluid experienced during this season.
Make use of face towels or nose masks– With the business of everyday life especially in urban areas, our faces and skin are bound to attract dirt that is invisible to the naked eye. So, it is important that the face be cleansed from time to time with alcohol-free moisturizing face towels. Use a nose mask to prevent dust from entering the nostrils.
Asthmatic patients should always keep the inhaler handy and avoid dust as much as possible.
Use of hair wigs and wearing protective hairstyles that keep the tip of hair hidden and moisturized is helpful
Taking of vitamins helps to prevent the effect of harmattan on the body. Vitamins like vitamin C help build immune system to prevent the body from getting the the flu or cold.
Wear protective clothing- The use of warm, thick protective clothing is very important in ensuring that the skin is protected from the harshness that comes with harmattan.
In some cases, the body immunity is strong enough to get rid of the infection, and in serious cases, medical attention is needed; to prevent this, washing of the eyes regularly and use of sunglasses help and a balanced diet should not be underestimated.
Asides health problems, the Harmattan haze makes driving and flight difficult and as everybody travels to their loved ones this season, we all should take care to drive carefully, avoid over speeding and obey traffic regulations.
Home appliances should be put off when not in use and care should be taken when burning refuse to avoid fire destruction. With Joy in our hearts and health in our mind, let us enjoy this holiday season taking care of ourselves, our loved ones and using these necessary health tips.