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Staying hale and hearty during harmattan

By Geraldine Akutu
31 December 2017   |   2:43 am
There are primarily two seasons here in Nigeria, which are the rainy and dry (harmattan) seasons. The rainy season usually spans from April till October (with a little delay in the North), while the dry season spans from November till March.

Dr. Olayide Jinadu

As the rainy season gives way to harmattan, so much dust and haze have pervaded everywhere. Interestingly, the usually dry, cold weather is mixed with unbearable heat during the day and night. As a result of this year’s strange climate, medical bodies, organisations and individuals have been issuing advice and cautioning citizens on how to protect themselves and their young ones against the harsh weather, Dr. Olayide A. Jinadu, Medical Director at Charis-Med Hospital spoke further on the issue with GERALDINE AKUTU.
The harmattan, which used to be cold and dry, is also blowing hot this season…
There are primarily two seasons here in Nigeria, which are the rainy and dry (harmattan) seasons. The rainy season usually spans from April till October (with a little delay in the North), while the dry season spans from November till March. It is no longer news that the weather is pretty dry and hot, thus putting us at risk of upper respiratory tract infections and gross discomfort, especially at night. The most vulnerable age groups are children less than five years and the elderly above 70 years.

The harmattan, as is being experienced in some parts of the country, has been characterised by intense heat in the day, dust and cold at night. These put us at risk of dehydration, which is deprivation of water in the body or reduction in body water content, from increased perspiration and insensible losses (from the mouth) as a result of the intense heat (unfavourably hot weather), drastically reduced atmospheric humidity and dusty weather.

Who are at risk and what should be done to prevent dehydration?
Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and sickle cell patients are especially vulnerable this season. Dehydration has been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as no dehydration, some dehydration and severe dehydration.

Severe dehydration is characterised by lethargic or unconscious, sunken eyes, not able to drink or drinking poorly, skin pinch bounces back very slowly, depressed fontanelles in babies less than two years. Some dehydration is characterised by restlessness, very irritable, sunken eyes, drinking eagerly, thirsty, skin pinch goes back slowly. No dehydration is not enough signs to classify as some or severe dehydration.It should be noted that only the no dehydration classification could be managed at home using zinc tablets and Oral rehydration solution, while the other classifications are to be managed at the hospital.

What other health issues should the public watch out for?
The health troubles that emerge this season are mainly airborne diseases. Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are more prevalent this season, as a result of easy transmission owing to low humidity. The symptoms are cough, catarrh and fever, among others. Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. There is also epistaxis, which is sudden bleeding from the nose as a result of low humidity. There is a part in both nostrils known as the little’s area which is richly vascularised (meaning with good blood supply). However, they are very friable when dry, leading to occasional bleeding on attempts to blow the nose or slight trauma to the nose. There is equally an increase in asthmatic attacks. The dry and dusty weather makes it unfavourable for asthmatic patient, as the dust usually exacerbates asthmatic attacks.

So, how can children be protected from the harsh weather?
It is very paramount that parents take special care of their children this harmattan period, as they are very prone to the above-mentioned challenges. Parents should ensure their children are properly dressed for the season. They should provide socks and sweaters for those experiencing cold and light dresses for those experiencing intense heat. They should ensure that the young ones’ heads, hands and necks are well covered.

They should also ensure that children, pregnant women, as well as everyone else remain hydrated by consciously drinking water as much as possible, as well as lots of fruits and vegetables, especially sickle cell patients. There is the need to ensure that homes are dust-free to prevent asthmatic attacks. People should be careful what they eat this season, as another common illness is diarrhoea, which results from consuming contaminated food. This can also lead to dehydration.

Cold, dry air tends to sap moisture. So, it is important to apply good moisturisers, such as petroleum jelly on children, when their skin is dry. This festive season is one filled with a lot of joy and merriment; let us ensure sound health all through. Health is wealth.

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