Harmattan is a season in West Africa which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. Its main characteristics are cold, dry and dusty winds which blow from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. The weather is usually cold in most places, especially in the mornings and at night. In Nigeria, harmattan is usually the coldest season of the year and causes desert-like conditions.
During this season, the humidity drops and can cause negative health effects especially among babies and children. These may include dry, flaky, ashy and itchy skin, cracked feet, sore throat, numb fingers, runny nose, common colds and trigger asthma. It is therefore important to ensure that children are taken care of adequately to ensure they do not contract any illness.
Here are some tips to protect babies and children during the harmattan season.
Tips for Protecting Children during harmattan
⚡Moisturize! Moisturize!! Moisturize!!!: Due to the increased risk of developing dry, flaky, ashy or itchy skin during harmattan, it is important that children’s skins are moisturized after bath times and during diaper changes to maintain supple skin. Severely dry skin can cause cracks in the skin which can open and bleed, providing an opportunity for bacteria to enter the skin. It is also important to note that children should be bathed with warm water during this period. Shea butter provides a very good option for leaving children’s skin moisturized and helps relieve the common cold. It is a natural moisturizer that nourishes the delicate and sensitive skin of children. Unscented oils, coconut oil and chamomile oil are also good options for moisturizing children’s skin. Children can also be given unscented lip balms to prevent cracked lips.
⚡Choose the right outfits: During the harmattan season, the weather is usually cold early in the morning and at night, it is therefore important to put on warm clothing for babies and children, as they lose body heat quickly and babies expound a lot of energy in the pursuit to keep warm in a cold environment. Babies and children should be dressed in layers of clothing which can be easily taken off when it gets hot. It is also important that caps and socks are also worn to keep ears and feet them warm.
⚡Ensure children stay hydrated:
The dry air during the harmattan season can make children easily dehydrated so it is important that children are given warm water and tea instead of carbonated drinks. Also, because the humidity drops, as stated earlier, it is advised that parents purchase a humidifier. The use of a humidifier adds moisture to the dry air which can cause dry and irritated skin, frequent sore throats and dry sinuses.
⚡Give them more fruits and vegetables:
some of these include carrots, oranges, green beans which contain immune boosting phytonutrients such as carotenoids and vitamin C. Phytonutrients increase the body’s production of infection fighting white blood cells and antibodies that block viruses. A diet rich in phytonutrients can also protect against the development of chronic diseases such as heart diseases.
⚡Watch out for negative symptoms:
Negative symptoms which should be watched out for include: a congested or runny nose with thick, yellowish or greenish mucus, irritability, coughing, difficulty sleeping or a fever. Children who have asthma should also carry their inhalers with them always.
⚡Keep the home clean: Harmattan usually brings a lot of dust which can trigger asthma amongst children who were already susceptible. It is recommended that windows be kept closed and homes should be dusted frequently.