Tips on how to survive harmattan


There are two major seasons in the climate of Nigeria, the rainy season and the dry season (popularly known as harmattan season). The rainy season in Nigeria is usually between March and November while the dry season is between November and March.

The dry season is very cold in the mornings and evenings. The mornings are especially cold before sunrise. The season is characterized by cold weather, low humidity, and dust particles suspended in air, blue cloudless sky and drought caused by absence of rainfall.

The Harmattan is a seasonal wind which blows across Northwestern Africa every year from November through March, at intermittent strengths.

The dry wind lowers the humidity, which can lead to hot days and cool nights.

This famous wind blows from North to South, working its way across the Sahara to the Gulf of Guinea. Along the way, it tends to pick up sand and dust, turning into a very drying, dusty wind. When the Harmattan really gets going, the dust can sometimes create a cloudy haze which can sometimes intensify into an actual sandstorm.

Dr Raphael Aluko, a general practitioner explains that low humidity associated with harmattan causes dryness in the throat, nostrils and other parts of the upper respiratory tract creating an environment for virus, bacteria and other microorganisms to thrive. When these organisms thrive in such environment, they cause ailments like cough, cold, catarrh, pain in the throat and down to the lower respiratory tracts with asthma and pneumonia – an infection of the lungs.

He adds that “the eyes are not spared as there is irritation that causes conjunctivitis (Apollo) and because of the dust that settles on the skin, there is generally itching.

Therefore, it is important that we protect ourselves against this harsh weather by showering constantly and wearing protective clothing especially for newborn babies, children and the elderly.

Here are some tips on how to survive harmattan.

1. Drink up and Stay hydrated
It’s normal to become dehydrated and get thirsty very easily at this time, so drink at least 1.5 liters of water every day as this will help keep your whole body system working properly.

2. Adjust outfits
The weather is usually really bright and hot in the afternoon but could get very cold at night. To be on the safer side, put on warm clothing when going to bed at night or when going out in the mornings. You can loosen up your clothes as the day heats up.

3. Take vitamin C
This will help to reduce the likelihood of you contracting the flu otherwise known as catarrh. As there is dust and cold everywhere, taking vitamins generally will help combat the negative effects they could have on the body. Eat plenty fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before consumption as this will keep your immune system strong. Vitamin C based foods are mainly fruits like oranges, water melon etc.

4. Moisturize 
Let your lip balm and moisturizer/petroleum jelly/vaseline/shea butter (ori) /oil be your best friends. Always have a lip balm and moisturizer in your bag, pocket or somewhere easily accessible. Apply the balm on your lip and the moisturizer on the skin when any of them are starting to get dry. Take care of yourself, you don’t want to look like some ghost.

5. Be careful with fires
Fires tend to get aggravated during harmattan. Avoid burning indiscriminately and if you have to burn anything, make sure it is attended and well monitored. Most fire accidents happen in this season because everywhere is dry and the fire can travel easily without restrictions.

6. Avoid dusty areas
For asthmatic patients, the dusty winds of harmattan can trigger attacks. This is why they should stay away from dusty areas and have their inhalers on them at all times. Wearing a nose/face mask is advisable during this period when one has to have contact with dusty environment.

7. Wear protective hairstyles
For Nigerian females who mostly have long hair, harmattan can be terrible for the tips. It can cause dry tips and hair breakage. Wear hairstyles that keep your ends hidden such as braids, tie scarves and keep hair moisturized.

8. Avoid flying
Flights tend to get cancelled or rescheduled a lot during harmattan due to intense haze. Avoid flying if you don’t need the hassle and go for other means of transport instead.

9. Wear protective shades
Apart from the fact that you may look funky and cool all dressed up because of the change in weather, you will need some protective shades to protect your eyes from the wind. You can prevent sand particles from getting into your eyes if you wear your shades always.

10. Hand washing
Frequent hand washing is also extremely important, as this can destroy viruses that have been acquired from touching contaminated surfaces.

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