Just like winter, spring, summer and fall seasons in the United States, there is the wet and the dry season in major parts of Africa and in the latter Harmattan strikes real cold and dry.
From November till about March people in the African region (especially the West) experience dry and dusty weather with bursts of cold air in the mornings and nights and high temperatures at noon. This is a result of sand and dust particles being lifted into the atmosphere from the Sahara.
Despite the fact that some people love the cold weather, there is an unhealthy side to it. When these harmattan dust moves in the air, people basically inhale the particles into their bodies and have them deposited on their skin and in eyes.
Studies indicate that the major mineral in the dust is silicon. Others include kaolinite (Aluminum oxide, Silica), halloysite (Aluminum, silicon, hydrogen), microcline (Potassium, Aluminum, Silicate) and mica. Alongside these minerals come pollutants which if lodged deep in the lungs when inhaled can cause a break out of respiratory illnesses, bronchitis, and aggravation of Asthma. There is also a breakout of meningitis because of increased heat at noon and in some cases these harmattan dust increases infant and child mortality.
Apart from these, due to the dryness, there tends to be more burning of refuse openly during this season. This is a cause for concern as more pollutants gets circulated in the air, further worsening the already poor visibility brought on by the harmattan haze. In some cases that little spark can become a wild fire that destroys properties.
With the knowledge we have now, there is the need to take care of oneself during this season. Here are a few steps that can be taken;
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- Wash your face regularly to avoid red eyes which is common during harmattan season.
- Wear a facemask to protect your nose and mouth from harmful dust particles.
- Reduce outdoor activities, especially if you have allergies. This will help you avoid dust inhalation of harmful particles blown in with the wind.
- Wear clothes that keep your body warm especially late at night and early in the morning.
- Your hair matters now. Add moist and oil it more often. If possible cover it when outdoors to avoid breakage. For ladies, this is the period to make protective styles.
- Get home remedies if you have red, itchy, and watery eyes, running, itchy, sneezing, and stuffy nose. Get medical attention if symptoms persists.
- Keep the doors and windows closed to avoid the house being flooded by dust.
- Clean surfaces and corners as often as possible.
- Always use moisturizers to prevent dry skin which can cause breakage. Read the label to ensure the moisturiser is good for your skin.
- Use lip balm (non-scented) to prevent cracked lips.
- Avoid burning during this period. If you must, burn in a controlled environment.
Long term plans to control the effect of the harmattan winds include afforestation to break winds especially in places where the harmattan is more severe.
How do you keep safe during harsh weather conditions in your country? Do share with us in the comment section.