The Harmattan is a season in the West African subcontinent, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by the dry and dusty northeast wind, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. The word is derived from a twi word “haramata” In some parts of Nigeria, such as Lagos, harmattan can hardly be felt during these period. However, in places closer to the Sahara/Gulf of Guinea especially in the North of the country which are in the direction of the wind, harmattan effects can be quite severe.
For many states in Nigeria, harmattan is characterized by very cold temperatures, especially in the mornings/nights and very hot weather in the afternoons. It usually comes with its own health challenges. As we all breadth, we take in this cold dry and dusty air into our nostrils and then our lungs, thereby causing some infections and changes in the body. These infections could include; cold, cough, catarrh, asthma, redness of the eyes, dry skin, dry scalp amongst a host of other respiratory challenges.
Based on experience from old, there are a number of advices by medical experts on how to survive the period. Both medical and weather experts have advised periodic hydration as it’s common to become dehydrated and get thirsty very easily at this time. Some persons are quick to mistake consumption of chill carbonated drinks and juices as a means of rehydration but this is not advisable. Rather at least 1.5 liters of water should be consumed daily as this will help keep the whole body system work properly. Also it is wise to use the right raiment and correctly. The hot weather in the afternoon could be deceptive but it could really get cold as it usually really gets very cold at night. To be safer, put on warm clothing when going to bed at night or when going out in the mornings while you can loosen up your clothes as the day heats up. Furthermore, experts recommend consumption of Vitamin C.
This will help to reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu otherwise known as catarrh. As there are dust and cold everywhere, taking vitamins generally helps combat the negative effects they could have on the body. To avoid severe dryness of the lips, scalp and feet, regular moisturizing is necessary. Lip balms and moisturizers /petroleum jelly/castor oil should be close by and used regularly. For safety reasons, one must avoid unattended open fires. Fires tend to get aggravated during harmattan so one must 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. 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. It is also wise to wear protective hairstyles. For Nigerian females who mostly have wooly 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.
Flights tend to get cancelled or rescheduled a lot during harmattan due to intense haze. So it is advisable to avoid unnecessary flights, rather other means of travel should be explored. As the dry, dusty weather intensifies, it is wise to keep to these advises to remain safe, healthy and merry for the Christmas yuletide.