The harmattan season is caused by the dry and dusty north-east trade wind coming from the Sahara Desert which usually starts from late December to February. The season is characterized by low relative humidity, dusty air, chilly weather and sunny days.
The relative humidity during this period is low, which gives rise to dry cold air. As the air becomes colder, its ability to retain moisture is lost. The persistence of dry air can have different implications on our well-being.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF DRY AIR
• Exacerbates symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.
In low humidity environment, the fluid that hydrates the bronchial tubes dries out quickly leading to bronchial constriction and irritation of the airways.
Spending much time outside or in the open (prolonged exposure to dusty air) can lead dry throat, coughing, chest tightness amongst others.
If you have asthma or any respiratory infections, the symptoms you experience may be exaggerated due to the weather.
• Sore throat
Pain and inflammation in the throat caused by dry air makes it difficult to swallow and breathe properly. The pain is accompanied by increased phlegm production making breathing difficult especially when asleep.
• Eye irritation
Exposure to dry dusty air causes the tear film of the eye to dry out quickly which is responsible for irritation and red eyes.
• Dry Skin
Even after using body creams and moisturizers, staying outdoors for long periods during this season makes your body lose moisture to the environment. This leaves your skin dry and scaly.
The elasticity of the skin together with skin barrier function is weakened which results in exaggerated response to irritants and allergens.
• Nose Bleeds
The nose is usually dry during this season. People who pick their nose often are prone to have nose bleeds. The nostrils are itchy, irritated and can bleed at any time.
This season is characterized by dehydration. You may notice increasing thirst or passage of concentrated urine (deep yellow urine).
THINGS TO DO
• Consciously drink water (warm) regularly (>3 litres daily).
• Have frequent showers with cool water. Avoid hot water bath as the skin dries up quickly.
• Use of moisturizers regularly to prevent dry skin.
• Moisturize your skin while still damp from showering.
• Avoid spending long time outdoors or in the open.
• Using humidifier indoors to moisten the air especially during sleep prevents dry painful throat.
• Use of facemasks and sun glasses when outdoors.
• Wearing protective covering with minimal skin exposure is advisable especially when going outdoors.
• Clean surfaces regular with disinfectants sprays with damp cloth to reduce dust accumulation.
• Avoid the use of heavy scented air-fresheners and pesticide powders as they can irritate the nose, eyes, and skin.
• Use of lip balm prevents dry, cracked lips.
Ezike Nonye is a Pharmacist who completed her Bachelor degree from University of Lagos (B.Pharm). She is currently exploring digital marketing analytics as a novel field in Pharmacy practice while also interning at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. She is a graphic designer, a blogger and an entrepreneur. She is passionate about creating new things from nature and believes that there is no limitation to what you can achieve. She is a Christian and loves writing and open to new ideas and skills.