Dangers Of Harmattan And How To Cope With It

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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.
Dressing
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.

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