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6 tips to staying healthy this harmattan

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



Harmattan is here again, dear readers! It is an exciting period filled with festive activities. Like most people, you will be out celebrating the New Year, and getting your hustle on. You are therefore exposed to the Sahara desert’s dusty wind blowing across the country.

  1. It is the time many develop catarrh, cough, sore throats and pneumonia (respiratory tract infections) caused by the body’s reaction to germs in the air as well as the huge quantity of dust inhaled. Avoid these by: maintaining dust-free home/work environment as much as possible; using disposable face masks or veils when outside; adding fruits and vegetables to your diet; using medicated lozenges
  2. Nose bleeds occur as a result of the air drying out the inner surface of the nose. Crusts are formed that break the delicate membrane lining the nose and bruise blood vessels. You should keep your nose moist (with special nasal sprays or by inhaling steam), and not picking the nose 
  3. Due to the dry weather, your skin loses moisture and is dry, scale-like and itchy. If not promptly taken care of, this can worsen to painful cracks especially in the lips, soles and palms. But using Vaseline, Shea butter, and specially made products help to keep the skin hydrated. You should also avoid completely drying your body after baths so that you lock in the moisture with your skin products 
  4. The cold can be treacherous particularly in young children and elderly people. You need extra warmth from blankets, cardigans, hot water bottles and, frequent, hot cups of tea. This is very important if you live in northern Nigeria which is worse hit by the cold winds. This cold triggers worsened symptoms in people with asthma, and those with allergies. People with sickle cell disease also need to take extra care this period 
  5. You should keep the dust from your eyes as much as possible by using glasses/goggles that wrap around your eyes, veils, artificial tears and staying indoors during duststorms. This prevents conjunctivitis (popularly called Apollo), pinguecula and pterygium. Pinguecula is a yellowish patch on the white part of the eye that can grow into pterygium which covers the transparent cornea (the part through which the eye sees) and causes loss of vision 
  6. It is necessary that you observe care with electrical equipment and flammable objects because the dryness makes things more likely to burn. Avoid burning refuse. Not only does this put you at risk of a fire accident, it also increases the load of inhaled pollutants in the air 

Congratulations! With these tips, you can say goodbye to discomfort and mishaps this season. Plant a tree if you can as this minimizes the effect of the dusty Saharan winds and reduces the harshness of coming harmattans.

Has this harmattan been harsh to you? Are your allergies worse this season? Don’t hesitate to TELL us about it.


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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo