How Abigael survives the harmattan season in Nigeria
The season of Harmattan, from Twi word haramata, originates from the dry and dusty harmattan trade winds which blows from the Sahara desert over West Africa. It usually comes between the end of November and the middle of March. Visiting Nigeria for the first time during this period might give a whole different experience from what is normally obtainable and so I will not advise anyone to visit Nigeria at this time.
It is more severe in places closer to the Sahara/Gulf of Guinea which are in the direction of the wind. For many Northern states like Abuja where I live, harmattan is characterised by very cold temperatures, especially in the mornings/nights and very hot weather in the afternoons. The humidity also drops really low and the air is dusty and very annoying. This means the skin has a tendency to dry up quickly and the wind can be very unfriendly to the respiratory system. The skin also tends to get ashy quickly except it is sufficiently moisturised.
As you must have known by now, my least favourite season of the year is the harmattan period. I will not want to sound as an extremist or like an ungrateful child who is lucky to be alive else I would have said “I hate and loathe harmattan season” Harmattan for me is a peculiar experience which I am not sure most people can relate to. In October 2007, my family relocated from the Southern part of Nigeria to Ogun state due to my dad’s transfer. The change of environment affected me so badly that I fell terribly sick and I had the type of malaria that showed even my “strong and resilient” father Cameroon pepper. I was home with my dad, Cecilia and my two tiny younger brothers. I transferred the sickness to my sister and we were taking turns to vomit out our lungs while my father was left to cater to us and our demanding needs.
The plates were unwashed, the rooms were unkempt, the bathroom was severely messed up by us due to the lack of water and everywhere was just in a state of disarray. My brothers were too young to do meaningful house chores and were just innocently playing and looking for my trouble. My mum was not at home to care for us so the burden of taking care of us was solely on my dad. The frustration of catering for us got so bad that he had to use broom to flog the malaria out of our stubborn bodies when we weren’t responding to treatment or eating. All we were doing was just taking turns in the restroom to empty the nonexistent items in our stomach which came out greenish in nature.
For some years since that time till date, I have always dreaded harmattan season because malaria is not usually far from me except I take some certain precautions.
Here are some tips on how to survive harmattan.
1. Stay hydrated: The importance of water during this period cannot be over flogged. It’s normal to become dehydrated and get really thirsty very easily at this time, so avoid carbonated drinks and juices but rather drink at least 2-3 liters of water every day as this will help keep your whole body system working properly. All through the year, I find it very difficult to take the right portion of recommended amount of water but I usually make up for this deficiency during harmattan season because I don’t want my system to break down. Have it in mind that, staying hydrated does not include Caffeine intake, because it is a diuretic and diuretics eliminate fluid out of the body, so you may need to cut back on the coffee this period. Go for beverages and fruit juice to keep you hydrated. Also eat lots of fruits and vegetables to keep your skin glowing.
2. Take vitamin C: Personally, I think my immune system is at it’s weakest point during this period as I am susceptible to all forms of things flying around in the air at this period. Taking Vitamin C usually helps to reduce the likelihood of my system contacting the flu otherwise known as catarrh which for me is usually accompanied by cough, sorethroat and extreme headache.
Taking vitamins generally have been shown to help in combating the negative effects the extreme dust could have on the body at this time. Just be careful not to take an overdose portion of vitamin C. Moderation is also a virtue during harmattan as I am not a doctor. Yet.
3. Wear the right types of outfits: During harmattan, some fabrics irritate my skin and I avoid them till the next season rescues me. The weather is usually really hot and dry in the afternoon but could get very cold at night. To be on the good side, put on warm clothing when going to bed at night or when going out in the mornings. You can loosen up your clothes and discharge your cardigans/sweater as the day’s heats gathers momentum.
4. Have a pack of Lip balm ready: Cracked and charred lips are very discomforting especially if you are a potential slay queen like me. The rough patches and white ashy lines on lips for me is a huge NO NO NO. The solution is to let your lip balm and moisturiser/petroleum jelly/oil be your best friends. Always have a lip balm and moisturiser in your bag, pocket or somewhere easily accessible. Apply the balm on your lip and the moisturiser on the skin when any of them are starting to get dry.
Take this point seriously and thank me later as you watch your slay queen ambition relocate to the permanent site.
5. Be careful with fires: A market in Onitsha and few markets in Lagos witnessed very terrible fire outbreaks in the past weeks that rendered many people jobless as they’ve lost the source of their livelihoods which rendered many dead and some shop owners depressed and frustrated with life. Fires tend to get aggravated during harmattan season hence the saying that a rumour spreads like wildfire on a hot afternoon during harmattan. My advice is that you should avoid burning indiscriminately and if you have to burn anything at all, make sure it is attended to and well monitored. Most fire accidents happen in this season because everywhere is dry and the fire can travel easily without restrictions. Make sure all your electrical appliances are off and keep appliances away from the reach of children. One can never be too careful.
6. Avoid dusty areas: For asthmatic patients, the dusty winds of harmattan can trigger attacks. This is why they should stay away from dusty areas and have their inhalers on them at all times. Wearing a nose/face mask is advisable during this period when one has to have contact with dusty environment. This dry cold dusty season also triggers sickle cell disease (SCD) as well. Patients should drink plenty of water and avoid outdoor activities as much as possible. Maintaining your health is very vital as a Nigerian because even our hospitals have become death centres as patients are left to die if they do not provide the needed materials requested by the nurses and doctors who are always changing shifts and writing new lists. May we and our family members not be at the mercy of Nigeria health care system oooo.
7. Wear protective hairstyles: For Nigerian females who mostly have 4c hair, harmattan can be terrible for the tips. It can cause dry tips and hair breakage. Wear hairstyles that keep your ends hidden such as braids, tie scarves and keep hair moisturised. I am also guilty of this….I am talking to myself too.
8. Bathe With Lukewarm Water: Yes, I know that the mornings are really cold and having a shower with cold water seems like the best option but it isn’t an intelligent option. Hot water isn’t an advisable option for you you because it strips the skin of its natural oil barrier, thus resulting in dryness and itching. Hence, opt for lukewarm water. Skin care experts recommend short, warm showers or baths that last no longer than 5 to 10 minutes.
9. Exfoliate: Exfoliating your skin a few times a week will help shave off dead and dry skin cells and allow new skin cells to come up. Use a gentle body scrub twice a week. Note however, that if over exfoliation occurs, your skin’s oils will still be depleted and dry skin will recur.
10. Choose skin enhancing beauty Products: The harmattan season is not the time to use high alcohol or astringent content face cleansers or hand washes as this will strip your skin off its natural oils. Opt out for mild products such as a moisturizing body wash, a cleanser that contains ceramides (fatty molecules that make up the outer barrier of your skin) as they help the skin hold in moisture and an oil based body lotion such as Palmer’s Cocoa Butter; you can even moisturize using shea-butter or olive oil.
- Avoid or reduce outdoor activities, especially if you have allergies
- Stay indoors to avoid dust inhalation of harmful particles coming with the wind
- Wear clothes that keep your body warm
- Go to the clinic if you have red, itchy, and watery eyes.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
- Wash your eyes regularly to avoid red eyes which is common during harmattan.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a mask or towel when it is dusty.
- Get medical help if you have running, itchy, sneezing, and stuffy nose.
- Keep the doors and windows closed
- Always use moisturizers to prevent dry skin and dry palms.
- Use lip balm to prevent cracked lips.
The ember months come with the countdown to Christmas, vacations, plenty to eat and drink, cracked lips, dry skin and ashy appearances across Nigeria. Don’t allow one yeye harmattan to dull your shine or make you dislike the season as much as I do.
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hank you for stopping by. I love you!!!