Dangers Of Harmattan And How To Cope With It (Must Read)
The harmattan season is in full swing in many parts of Nigeria. The weather can be very cold, dry and dusty. Residents should expect heavy winds and chilly weather in the morning.
The northern part of the country is worst hit by the cold weather, which starts in December and ends around the end of January. It is referred to as the ‘Nigerian winter’.
Experts also add that many people are likely to face health challenges during this period. Family Health physician, Dr.Femi Omolola, says it is the time to keep warm before going to bed to avoid being exposed to weather-related health problems.
Omolola warns that asthmatic patients and people living with sickle cell anaemia need to prepare to face such health challenges that may likely affect their joints and restrict their movement.
He says, “If you are suffering from any disease of the joint, such as arthritis, sickle cell anaemia, rheumatism or osteoporosis, you should take more care because the cold but dry weather encourages brittle bones.”
The physician also notes that the cold and dry air that blows during harmattan irritates the respiratory system and makes it difficult for asthmatic patients to breathe easily at night and in the morning.
Another physician at the Public Health Department of University of Wisconsin, United States of America, Dr. Tinsely Davis, describes unprotected exposure to cold weather as an open invitation to diseases like rheumatism, cardiac arrest, pneumonia and arthritis; and, in severe cases, death from hypothermia.
Davis notes that staying unprotected from a cold weather, such as the one we are experiencing right now, could lead to joint and muscle pains, which may result in rheumatic pain in the neck, back or legs in future.
She says, “Typical chronic rheumatic pains in joints or muscles become more intense if people are exposed to cold weather. Therefore, if you get the chills quickly, you may want to avoid, as much as possible, being exposed to such cold temperature.”
Davis adds that the respiratory system suffers greatly when the body is exposed to cold and dry weather like that of the harmattan.
According to her, the cool temperature helps the bacteria and virus that cause pneumonia, laryngitis and pharyngitis to thrive.
She states, “The risk of respiratory irritation is quite high when the weather is too cold and it becomes easy to catch these bacterial or viral infections that cause problems in the lungs, throat, nose or ear.
“It first starts with trivial illnesses like cold, catarrh and cough. Gradually, it becomes more serious to neuralgia (pain) in the head or torso, toothaches, headaches and sinus; then paralysis of the eyelids, mouth and nerves or cardiac failure.”
There are so many challenges one could face during this period. They include cracking of lips or cold, dry skin, catarrh, cough and It is important to stay safe and healthy, especially because cold temperatures bring risks. Please look after yourselves and follow these steps to cope better with cold weather.
If you have to go outside, you must dress in warm clothes. Even if you are only making a short journey, be sure to dress in lots of layers. Layers work better than a single thick item because air is trapped in them, thereby keeping you warm. After all, you can also remove layers at your destination.
Another way to cope with extreme cold weather, in terms of dressing, is to look after your extremities and exposed areas. Hats, scarves, gloves and appropriate footwear are compulsory. Before you leave your house, ask yourself this question: If I have to hang around, say for a delay in transport, or my car gets caught in traffic, would I stay warm? If the answer is no, you are not dressed appropriately..
Moisturise your skin
The cold weather can be particularly harsh on our skin if we don’t protect it. It makes us to look dull, tired and even older.
While it might leave us feeling warmer, it can also dry out the skin. Unless our skin is properly hydrated, it can’t repair itself properly, meaning that every little irritation could become a bigger problem.
Heavy wind during cold weather can remove the UV filtering lipids from our skin and accelerate sunburn. This is why it is essential that we make up for the loss of these lipids with creams that block the suns UV rays.
Of course, if you don’t protect your skin from the cold, you run the risk of developing skin conditions in later in life. There could be more serious consequences that arise from not protecting your skin, such as cancer of the skin.
Keeping a lip balm in your pocket, car and handbag for constant applications will keep chapped, dry lips at bay.
Eat hot food
Eating hot soup is the best answer to the cold weather. It does not only warm you up, but fills your stomach. Coffee and cocoa are also good at warming you up, but they don’t do quite a good job of filling your stomach.
Eating hot food will also ensure that bacteria and virus do not thrive in your belly.
Finally, you must not forget to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water.