To start with, here are some of the popular local names of Harmattan in Nigeria.
- Ooye (Yoruba)
- Ugürü (Igbo)
- Hùntūrū̀ (Hausa)
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Harmattan period in Nigeria is a special dry season that usually comes around November or early December, and can last up to February/March.
During this period, the dry, cold, and dusty wind of the Sub Saharan trade zone blow into Nigeria, and the effects are heavier on some Northern states which are closer to the Sahara desert.
Signs of harmattan period
Here are some signs to know that harmattan is upon us:
- Cold mornings
- Hot afternoons
- Cold nights
- Dry humid air
- Dusty breeze
- Morning haze or mist.
Effects of the harmattan period
These signs of harmattan above are notorious for causing the following effects:
- Dry and wrinkled skin
- Dusty eyes
- Dry lips that may begin to crack
- Hair breakage
- Cracked heels of your feet
- Dust everywhere, even inside your house
- Dry ashy elbows and knees
- Irritable and itchy skin
- Skin turns white when scratched
Some people enjoy this special period of the dry season because of the chills, but others can find harmattan harsh or even life-threatening especially with the extreme cold, dryness, and dust.
If you fall among the latter, here are tips for taking care of yourself during the Harmattan and survive our winter like it never happened.
Complete tips for surviving harmattan in Nigeria
Drink lots of water
Harmattan comes with a lot of dry air which can dehydrate you faster than usual.
If drinking ordinary water is boring, an alternative is to consume fruits that have high water content like apples, cucumbers, watermelons, oranges, pineapples, etc.
Avoid soft drinks or soda
The sugar in these sweet drinks dehydrate you fast by absorbing the water in your body, and Harmattan period is the worst time for your body to lose water.
Use regular bathing soaps
Unless you are treating skin conditions like Scabies, avoid bathing with medicated soaps during the harmattan period.
Adjust your wardrobe
Cold mornings + hot afternoons + cold nights = harmattan period. Knowing what to wear at each time of the day can save you many inconveniences.
Wear heavy clothes to beat the cold morning but choose them wisely because you’d have to remove/change them during the heat of the sun in the afternoon.
Wear loose-fitting clothes that allow for air circulation. If appropriate, wear dark shades or put on a hat or face cap to save your eyes from direct sunlight.
Wear heavy clothes and socks to bed. Keep your blanket close because it gets even colder through the night.
Get a handkerchief
Always leave your home with a handkerchief to protect your mouth, nose, and eyes when the dust gets heavy.
Your handkerchief can also come in handy for cleaning your feet and the tip of your trousers.
Apply oily creams
Harmattan blows dry air that sucks up any water it can find, and your skin is the most exposed to this thirsty breeze of harmattan.
Most of your regular creams won’t last 2½ hours on your skin before drying up during harmattan, therefore, you need oily creams.
A common one is Vaseline which you can get from local stores, but your healthier alternative would be an extra virgin coconut oil extract.
Coconut oil has been confirmed severally to be a long-lasting moisturizer because their thick layers can withstand the dry breeze of harmattan, and keep you as shiny as fried plantain all day.
Care for your hair
This Sub Saharan wind of harmattan can dry your hairs so bad that they may begin to break and fall off. Therefore, you need to protect your hair from too much exposure to harmattan by doing the following:
- Wash your hair regularly
- Apply your extra virgin coconut oil thoroughly
- Wear headgears like caps, head warmers, or scarfs.
- Make hairdos that hide the tip of your hairs
Don’t forget your lips
Lick your lips as often as possible to keep them moist, and avoid dry cracks. However, it is better you get a lip balm, moisturizer or coconut oil instead because saliva on your lips will dry up within minutes.
Balms are packed with enough sensations that will trigger your body to produce more heat. Rub them well on your feet, arms, and chest region. Keep these balms away from your eyes and private parts because they can be irritating.
Aboniki balm, Essential balm or Robb are the most common balms in Nigeria. They are available in local stores and online.
Keep home warm
You can warm up the house by cooking or boiling water, even better if you have a fireplace.
However, be careful with fire because the harmattan period makes everything dry and very easy to ignite fire disasters.
Close your doors/windows to reduce the dust and cold coming into your home.
Cover your meals, wash your fruits thoroughly before eating and never leave your home without rubbing your moisturizer.
Some parts of your body deserve more moisturizer because they usually remain exposed even with your clothes on.
These parts include;
- Feet (especially heels)
Road trips are advisable for travellers than taking flight because of the misty atmosphere, however, drive safely.
If you have chronic health conditions like asthma, sickle cell or allergies, always keep your medications close in case of emergencies.
Last updated: December 2019
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