The Harmattan season which occurs in West Africa between the end of November and the middle of March, is characterized by dry and dusty winds and alternating temperatures. The northerly trade wind blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea, carrying with it fine dust and sand particles across the subcontinent.
The drop in humidity and dirt-filled dust are the main causes of health problems during the harmattan. The skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs interact most with the atmosphere, thus they suffer most at this time of the year.
As a result more people suffer from the following conditions during this season:
- Dry itchy skin, cracked lips and heels. This is caused by low humidity.
- Inflamed eyes which might get superinfected by bacteria; commonly called “Apollo”. (Maybe because person with this condition wear sunshades from the brand Apollo)
- Sinusitis, sore throats and bronchitis (Harmattan cough) caused by dirt particles
- Nose bleeding caused by dry air
- Older persons and babies may suffer from hypothermia, a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature
- Asthma patients might suffer more attacks
Tips On Staying Healthy Through The Harmattan
- Keep your skin moist: (especially if you have diabetes)
- don’t bathe with very hot water, it dehydrates the skin
- don’t use aggressive soaps, especially antiseptic soaps if they are not prescribed by your doctor. Mild creamy soaps are recommended. Use oil based soaps which contain soaps that contain aloe vera, vegetable oils, avocado or cocoa butter.
- Use oils to keep face and feet moist. The general rule i learned from https://hackyourselfpretty.com/ is: go for non-fragant plant oils and avoid fragrant “essential” oils. Fragant oils could react with air and cause more harm to your skin. Some oils recommended include Argan oil, Olive oil, Castor oil, Moringa oil. Palmkernel oil (popularly known as Mayanga) is very reach in antioxidants and keeps the skin moist.
- Don’t substitute your skin moisturizer for facial oils. Wear facial oils under your moisturizer.
- avoid skin products with drying, sensitizing ingredients like denatured alcohol, essential oils, mint, menthol, eucalyptus, clays, and starches. Surprisingly, these ingredients show up in a large number of products for dry to very dry skin.
- Avoid body lotions, use body creams or butters like Cocoa butter, Shea butter, AHA-based creams etc.
- Protect your eyes from damage: wear protective glasses to protect them from dust, sand and dryness. Don’t forget to rinse your eyes with clean water if they are get in contact with dust particles.
- Protect your respiratory tract: wear masks to prevent breathing in dusty air. Asthma patients need to pay more attention to their health and carry their medication with them.
- Keep warm: wear protective and warm clothing, especially children and older persons
- Keep your immune system strong: regular exercise, drinking sufficient water, having enough rest as as well as eating fruits and vegetables help your immune system intact.