Wednesday, 6 December 2017

How Nigerians Can Stay Safe During Haramattan, By: Ramadan Alli

dealing with harmattan in Nigeria/health/wellness


Harmattan in West African subcontinent occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind. This period usually comes with dryness and dust because there is little amount of water in the atmosphere ( low humidity). In most places, the temperature is cold, but can be hot in some places depending on circumstances.

When the harmattan blows hard, it can push dust and sand all the way to south America. In some West African countries, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit the visibility and block the sun for several days comparable to heavy fogs. The Harmattan brings desert-like weather condition, it dissipates cloud cover, lowers the humidity, prevents rainfall formation and sometimes creates big clouds of dust which can result to sandstorm. The effect caused by this dust and sand stirred by these winds is known as the Harmattan Haze.

This season may come, for many people, with unwanted adverse effects.

For, instance, Harmattan increases the spread of infections or diseases such as cold, cough, catarrh, dry skin, measles, eye defect, triggers sickle cell carrier, asthma etc.

Let's look into some of these things below:

COUGH: Is a reflex action that helps clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as smoke and dust. To prevent cough, wear a nose mask when in and out of the house. For those who have it already; Increase your fluid intake.

All these helps to keep the mucus thin and helps to cough up.


DRY SKIN: Skin feels very dry and rough. To prevent this uncomfortable feelings; 
avoid using harsh soaps, apply moisturisers frequently on your skin that can protect the skin from dryness and make sure you drink lots of water. You can also applying Shea butter to your cracked lips.


EYE DEFECT: The eyes are directly exposed to the harsh weather especially the dust particles carried by the wind. Thus itching, redness of the eye may be common especially in individuals with allergic eye disease. The hospitals in the Northern part of this country usually record increase in eye problem in this period of the year. Proper eye hygiene in form of washing with clean water, reduced exposure to dust and protective spectacles are advocated. 


The dry, cold and dusty wind associated with Harmattan also triggers sickle cell crises in affected individuals. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease in red blood cells become sickle under a condition of low oxygen tension leading to blockage of small blood vessels.


Harmattan, despite its adverse health effects, is not without some benefits to man.

The low temperature associated with it is unfavourable for the breeding of mosquitoes thus reducing the incidence of malaria.

Among its benefits are:

It helps our foods to stay longer without spoilt.

It aids in drying up clothes minutes after washing.

It makes the rooms to free from odours especially in areas where we can find pit lavatories, street gutters etc.

People don't usually sweat much during this season.
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Necessary steps to cope with this season:

Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. 

Wash your eyes regularly to avoid red eyes which is common during harmattan.

Cover your noise and mouth with a mask or towel when it is dusty.

Avoid or reduce outdoor activities especially if you have allergies.

Stay indoors to avoid dust inhalation of harmful particles coming with the wind.

Wear clothes that keep your body warm.

Keep the doors and windows closed.

Always use moisturizers and mild soap to prevent dry skin and dry palms.

Use lip balm to prevent cracked lips.

Go to the clinic if you have red, itchy and watery eyes. 

Asthmatic patients should always keep the inhaler handy and avoid dust as much as possible.

Herbs can be used to treat cold using few spices such as tumeric, garlic, ginger, honey, pepper can rid cold in a matter of days without using medication. 

To women, the hair should be washed at least a month with shampoo and hair conditioner. When drying the hair, it shouldn't be completely dried to retain moisture in it and to prevent it from breaking. 

Our drinking water container should also be properly covered, always.

The harmattan is a natural hazard that we have to contain with. Environmental sanitation and enacting and enforcing laws to regulate environmental pollution from industrial by-products are all measures that will minimize the adverse health effect of this natural hazard.

Wish you healthy and safe harmattan period.

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