The “Ember Months” in most parts of Nigeria are usually characterized by increased heat, high humidity, and the signature harmattan dust. During the months of October, November and all through till February, parts of West Africa including countries like Nigeria, Benin,Chad and Ghana experience the harmattan season.
This harmattan dust and haze which flows around freely with the wind is known to cause decreased visibility, which affects the movement of vehicles as well as airplanes. Interestingly, this dust is also known to cause a few side effects which present in one form or another in different individuals.
Could it be the dust, or the haze, or the cold temperatures in the late nights and early mornings that lead to these reactions?
What Could Be Responsible for the Ailments During Harmattan
Different factors can be said to be responsible for all the different ailments associated with the harmattan dust during the harmattan season. Some of these factors are natural, while others are man-made.
What is important is to recognize what factors you may be vulnerable to, and then find the best ways to avoid them.
Some of the factors include:
- Dust: As the sun becomes more intense at this time of the year, and temperatures rise considerably (getting up to 45ºC in some parts), the soil becomes very loose, generating lots of dust. This dust can carry disease causing organisms and also cause allergies on the skin and in the respiratory tracts of some individuals.
- Heat: The scorching sun during the harmattan season dries up the skin leading to breakage, and the dryness could also lead to dehydration, minor nose bleeds, exacerbated meningitis and heat stroke.
Some Side Effects of Harmattan Dust
A number of side effects occur as a result of the harmattan dust that people come in contact with during the season. Here are some of the most significant ones:
- Skin Allergies and Reactions: For a lot of persons, they experience skin reactions and allergies as a result of the skin coming in contact with the dust during this season. Also resulting from harmattan dust contacting the skin include conditions like skin rashes and cracks. The severity of the condition would depend on the person’s immunity level and if there’s a skin injury or infection.
- Eye Irritations: The eyes are a very delicate pair of organs that could very easily be exposed to harmful substances and organisms, as well as disease-causing agents. Some of these conditions could include conjunctivitis (redness of the eyes, often associated with itching), baggy/swelling eyes and teary eyes.
- Respiratory Problems: A lot of issues and complications can arise as a result of the dust during the harmattan season. Some of these conditions include sore throats, catarrh, sneezing, coughing, exacerbated asthma attacks,
Some Ways To Deal With the Harmattan Dust
Practicing a few of these tips and taking some precautionary measures can help you deal with the many side effects of coming in contact with the dust as experienced during the harmattan season.
Here are a few helpful ways to go about this:
- Stay Hydrated: It is advisable to drink lots of water during the dry harmattan season. This will not only help prevent dehydration, but also provide required fluid for the body as well as the skin.
- Use Sun Shades: The sun rays are typically a lot more harsh during this season. Experts recommend using non-medicated sun shades to help protect the eyes from dust.
- Use a Face Mask: A lot of dust particles can get whipped up during the harmattan season. Using a face mask to protect your nose and mouth when outdoors can help to protect from dust as well as prevent contracting infection.
- Apply Jelly/Lotions: The skin gets very dry during the harmattan if it isn’t moisturized. It makes sense to apply some good moisturizing lotions or jelly on your skin to keep it moisturized and prevent it from getting dry.
- Take Fruits and Veggies: Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins. Vitamins, especially vitamin C, helps to boost your immunity and reduces your chances of being vulnerable to the side effects of harmattan dust.
- Cover the Skin: Lastly, as a rule of thumb during the harmattan season, it makes sense to cover up the skin a lot more with appropriate clothing. This especially in areas that are more prone to wind and haze, This will not only help protect your skin, but also help keep you warm when it gets cold during the harmattan.