The harmattan season is here again and as usual, students of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and the people of the ancient city of Zaria are not smiling. The harmattan weather in Zaria can be extremely harsh, and the harshness comes with a lot of adverse effects on our health and well-being. Trust me, Zaria isn’t the place you will like to be during the harmattan season talk more of having to rush to campus every morning for a 7 am lectures.
What is Harmattan
Harmattan is a season in the West African subcontinent, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by the dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea.
The name is related to the word haramata in the Twi language. The temperature is cold in most places, and extremely cold in others like Zaria but can also be hot in certain places, depending on local circumstances.
The Harmattan blows during the dry season, which occurs during the lowest-sun months. In this season the subtropical ridge of high pressure stays over the central Sahara Desert and the low-pressure Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) stays over the Gulf of Guinea. On its passage over the Sahara, the harmattan picks up fine dust and sand particles (between 0.5 and 10 microns).
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Zaria is one of the places where harmattan effects can be quite severe. Here, harmattan is characterized by very cold temperatures, especially in the mornings and nights. The humidity also drops really low and the air can be very dusty. This means the skin has a tendency to dry up quickly and the wind can be very assaulting to the respiratory system.
How then can Abusites, especially the newly admitted, cope with this intense weather? Here are some tips on how to survive the harsh harmattan in Zaria
It’s normal to become dehydrated and get thirsty very easily at this time, so avoid carbonated drinks at and juices but rather drink at least 1.5 liters of water every day as this will help keep your whole body system working properly.
The weather may be a bit warmer in the afternoon but usually very cold in the morning at night. To be on the safer side, put on warm clothing when going to bed at night or when going out in the mornings. You can loosen up your clothes in the afternoons.
Eat hot food
Eating hot food is one of the best answer to the cold harmattan weather in zaria. It does not only warm you up, but fills your stomach and burst your energy and immune system. Hot tea, Coffee and cocoa are also good at warming you up, but they don’t do quite a good job of filling your stomach.
Improve your hygiene
It is also advisable that people improve on their hygienic pattern during this period. In the course of patronizing hawkers, fruits, vegetables, and other such items must be thoroughly washed before eating to prevent foodborne diseases. Also, wash your eyes regularly to avoid red eyes which is common in during harmattan
Take vitamin C
This will help to reduce the likelihood of you contracting the flu otherwise known as catarrh. As there are dust and cold everywhere, taking vitamins generally will help combat the negative effects they could have on the body. Also increase your intake in fruits, vegetables, water, and other fluids.
Always keep your lip balm and moisturiser/petroleum jelly/oil handy. 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.
Be careful with fires
Fires tend to get aggravated during harmattan. Avoid burning indiscriminately and if you have to burn anything, make sure it is attended and well monitored. Most fire accidents happen in this season because everywhere is dry and the fire can travel easily without restrictions.
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.
Spend more time indoors
Avoid or reduce outdoor activities, especially if you have allergies. Spend more time indoors and keep the doors and windows closed to avoid dust inhalation of harmful particles coming with the wind.
Wear protective hairstyles
For Abusite ladies 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 moisturized.
Beware of your health challenges
This season can trigger asthma and allergies. Asthmatic patients should always keep the inhaler handy and avoid dust as much as possible. This dry cold dusty season triggers sickle cell disease (SCD) as well. Patients should drink plenty of water and avoid outdoor activities as much as possible.