By Otun Oluwadamilola
There is time and season for everything; you probably would have heard that before. There was a time we were walking about with umbrella or shower cap in our bags (ladies will understand the struggle), this is another period, a period of dryness. The rains have come and gone and the harmattan is here again. There are two major seasons in the climate of Nigeria, the rainy season and the dry season (popularly known as harmattan season).
The rainy season in Nigeria is usually between March and November while the dry season is between November and March. The dry season is very cold in the mornings and evenings. The mornings are especially cold before sunrise. The season is characterized by cold weather, low humidity, and dust particles suspended in air, blue cloudless sky and drought caused by absence of rainfall. The Harmattan is a seasonal wind which blows across Northwestern Africa every year from November through March, at intermittent strengths. The dry wind lowers the humidity, which can lead to hot days and cool nights. The word “Harmattan” entered the English language in the 17th century.
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THE HARMATTAN
Fire outbreaks constitute one of the common risks during harmattan. This is as a result of the harmattan, which is associated with dryness and wind. Between November and March, quite a lot of fire outbreaks are often recorded since there is dry wind, which makes it easy for fire to spread at the slightest ignition. Before leaving rooms, it is advised that all electrical appliances are switched off.
Since there will be severe cold mixed with dust, people with asthmatic conditions and any sort of inhalant allergies are advised to take precautions because this is the period when they will be inhaling all sorts of dust. This is the period when the Asthmatic suffers more crises. Many also suffer pneumonia and bronchitis, especially the very young and the aged. Those that are allergic to cold should also endeavor to go for thick clothing that can cover them up.
The skin is usually dry with accompanying cracking of the lips, sole of the feet and even the skin itself. The skin can be kept healthy by topical application of oily creams and weather friendly dressing. This is perhaps the best time to explore the wearing of long gowns and suits.
The eyes are directly exposed to the harsh weather especially the dust particles carried by the wind. Thus itching, foreign body sensation and redness may be common especially in individuals with allergic eye disease. Proper eye hygiene in form of washing with clean water, reduced exposure to dust and protective spectacles are advocated.
Food borne diseases:
Because of the dusty atmosphere, there is need to imbibe healthy food preservation culture especially food hawkers such as fruits, vegetables etc to prevent food borne diseases. Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating.
Lots of fluid should be taken to compensate for loss of water from the body into the atmosphere through respiration, perspiration and urinating. Harmattan is the period when the throat gets sore, sneezing is frequent, sometimes the eyes become watery or reddish, frequent headaches, sputum in your saliva because of catarrh and then cold and over time, cough. All these symptoms for just one season!
The Harmattan, despite its adverse health effects, is not without some benefits to man. For example, the low temperature associated with it is unfavorable for breeding of mosquitoes thus reducing the incidence of malaria. The cool wind also brings relief from the oppressive heat. It also makes for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets! The Harmattan is a natural phenomenon that we have to contain with.