9 Effects of Harmattan, its Advantages and Disadvantages

As the earth revolves around the sun we on earth experience change in seasons, in Europe and North America Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter is experienced whereas in West Africa the rainy and dry season is experienced.

The dry season is marked by harmattan climatic conditions, dry winds carrying sand, and mildew particles filling the atmosphere.

This article focuses on discussing the effects of harmattan its advantage and disadvantage.

Effect of Harmattan

What is the meaning of Harmattan?

The Harmattan is a dry, cold wind blowing from northeast of western Sahara from November to mid-March through to the Atlantic.

This is a trade wind that is empowered by a low-pressure center over the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea and a high-pressure center that is located over northwestern Africa.

This season is marked by clear sky, cool temperature, low humidity, reduced rainfall, and dry winds carrying significant volumes of Saharan fine dust particles of size between 0.5 microns and 10 microns often appearing as a thick fog and coatings everything with a thin layer of hundreds of kilometers out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Harmattan season comes during the months when the sun is lowest, it is often referred to as the “doctor wind” due to its harmful health effect.

During the harmattan parts of western Africa could experience air temperatures as low as 9 °C (48.2 °F) with 5% relative humidity drops.

Effects of Harmattan, its Advantages, and Disadvantages

Harmattan is widely known to have effects on humans and the environment and this effect can be an advantage or a disadvantage to us. Let’s look at the advantages.

Advantages of Harmattan

The harmattan season comes with that comes with multiple benefits, here are some of its advantages:

  • Lower relative humidity
  • Quicker drying time for laundry
  • Reduced mosquito activity
  • Less sweating

1. Lower Relative Humidity

High humidity is the biggest challenge with food storage as when dry food is exposed to moisture bacteria and molds can grow on them thereby ruining the food and spreading disease.

Low moisture is an important criterion for the selection of food material used in the production of food products to reduce food contamination and spoilage.

This is because the increase in relative humidity would lead to an increase in the microbial load of the food and higher chances of food poisoning from production.

This is one of the major problems in preserving agricultural produce. Mites, molds, mildew, rust, paper rot, and wood deterioration can all develop in environments with relative humidity levels of 60% or more.

The Relative humidity of the atmosphere is essential for the preservation of agricultural produce, most companies employ the use of their air conditioners to dry the air off moisture.

During this period local farmers spread the farm produce such as corn, onion, turmeric, etc. in open spaces and roads to dry them up.

Additionally, moisture leads to the deterioration of paper packaging and the rusting of metal containers.

2. Quicker Drying Time for Laundry

Effects of harmattan

Washed clothes dry faster during this season as the sun is out and the moisture content of the atmosphere is low hence the drying time of laundry is reduced significantly and not interrupted by rainfall.

3. Reduced Mosquito Activity

Effects of harmattan

One positive effect of the harmattan season is that the breeding of mosquito lava reduces. The female anopheles mosquito is a vector that carries the plasmodium parasite and she transmits this into the bloodstream of her victims when she bites, this parasite is the major cause of malaria.

In the year 2020, there were 241 million cases of malaria and 627 seven thousand deaths,

Statistics have shown that the number of malaria victims reduces in this period which is a great health advantage.

4. Less Sweating

The cool atmosphere of the harmattan makes the wearing of make-up and other cosmetic products enjoyable as the cool atmosphere creates a comfortable environment that eliminates the tendency of sweating. Faces stay smooth and clear of acne in this period.

Disadvantages of Harmattan

The Harmattan season has its merits and demerits, here are important demerits of the harmattan season you need to know to stay healthy and safe;

  • Sickness trigger
  • Reduced skin moisture/ dryness of skin
  • Fire outbreaks
  • Poor visibility
  • Rapid accumulation of dirt

5. Sicknesses Trigger

Effects of harmattan

The Harmattan season comes with lots of dusty wind and cold, which in most cases is harmful to the respiratory system. Early treatment of respiratory symptoms such as cough, catarrh, and others is important to enjoying the season. By applying waxy cream and oily creams to the skin to keep it moisturized and protected, the skin can be kept in good health.

Common Sicknesses associated with the harmattan season include;

  • Cold
  • Catarrh
  • The high tendency of Sickle cell crisis
  • Dehydration
  • Trigger Allergies
  • Increased tendency for eye defects

1. Cold

A cold is an upper respiratory tract viral illness that affects the nose and throat. The symptoms of the illness include; a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever, coughing, sore throat, and congestion.

Although Cold is usually harmless it is quite discomforting, infants and young children need to be protected during this season because they are most prone to this.

Appropriate clothing in this season should be adopted to stay warm and keep the cold out.

2. Catarrh

This is the excessive buildup and blowing out of mucus in the nose, throat, or chest region that causes very unpleasant nasal congestion.

Catarrh would affect your breathing pattern and most likely your sleep.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables along with vitamin C would boost your health and keep you from having this experience

3. High tendency of Sickle cell crisis

Sickle cell is a blood disorder that is normally inherited, Oxygen-carrying hemoglobin cells (red blood cells) are defective and turn into a crescent form or C shape when they release oxygen, this sickle cell goes on to block small blood flow vessels and prevents the flow of normal red blood cell.

Oxygen content in the atmosphere is reduced due to the extreme cold condition that could happen in this season hence the increased tendency of sickle cell crises.

Sickle cell crisis is a situation in which a sufficient measure of oxygen doesn’t get to the body tissue thereby causing pain in the body which is most felt in the bone.

4. Dehydration

When you are dehydrated, your body loses more fluids than you are consuming. If left untreated, it may worsen and develop into a significant issue.

Dehydration would cause dehydration including thirst, darker urine, weakness, headache, etc.

The harmattan season is hotter during the afternoon and we tend to lose more body fluids hence it’s very important we drink lots of water

Thirst as a sign of dehydration is not prevalent amongst adults, so please drink a lot of water.

5. Trigger Allergies

An allergy is a unique illness in which the body’s immune system reacts outrageously to a substance considered harmless. Pollens, furry animals, food, dust, animal fur, etc. are among the agents that could trigger an allergic reaction. One common type of allergy is allergic asthma.

When you breathe an allergen, it causes your airways to constrict, resulting in allergic asthma. Pollen, dust, mold spores mildew, are examples of typical allergens.

Children and adults suffer from this kind of asthma rather frequently. Shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and a rash are some of the signs of allergic asthma.

During the Harmattan season, the tendency of allergic asthma attacks increases because the wind carries these allergins easily.

Using a nose mask and avoiding places with these allergens is prevalent and is an important health caution for allergic asthma patients.

6. Increased tendency for eye defects

According to a study on the “Impact of Harmattan Sun and Dust of the Eye in a Nigeria City”, the harmattan season is dangerous for the eyes.

The harmattan wind from the Sahara desert is constantly covered in dust, which when combined with the sun’s increased intensity, leads to irritation, lacrimal flow, and burning-type symptoms.

As a result of the cornea’s high energy absorption by ultraviolet rays, which may cause its epithelial cells to be destroyed, this may subsequently result in other degenerative disorders of the eye, particularly the cornea.

The highest percentage of incidence of conjunctivitis and cornea happens during the harmattan season when in comparison to other seasons appears to be caused by the high intensity of the sun and the high quantity of dust.

Therefore, it was advised that people wear appropriate sunglasses outside during this season.

6. Reduced Skin Moisture/ Dryness of Skin

Effects of harmattan

During Harmattan, dry skin is a prevalent experience, the skin tends to turn whitish or ashy and rough. Dust particles soak up moisture off your skin and cause parts of your skin to break and become scally.

Avoid taking long baths with soapy hot water without moisturizing your skin, moisturize your skin frequently with products that can prevent dryness, and make sure you drink plenty of water.

7. Fire Outbreaks

 

Fire outbreak

Fire outbreak is one of the most critical concerns during harmattan season because it’s most frequent in this season. Due to the low humidity and high temperature, the tendency for the rapid ignition of dry leaves, branches, and highly volatile substance carriage trucks increases and can be triggered by throwing away lite cigarette, striking a match stick, ground friction, wrong electrical connection, candle,s, etc.

The majority of fire outbreaks took place in stores, gas stations, and occasionally homes.

Make sure cooking gas is left outside, your power supply switch is turned off and you don’t start a fire you can’t control when burning waste.don’t start a fire you can’t control when burning waste.

8. Poor Visibility

Effects of harmattan

Blowing toward Africa’s western coast from the Sahara is exceptionally dry and dusty that marking the harmattan season.

This may make it harder to see while driving, the dust frequently obstructs aircraft operations which cost airlines lots of money in canceled flights and diverted journeys.

9. Rapid Accumulation of Dirt

The rapid accumulation of dust on surfaces is one of the nasty effects of the harmattan. The dusty winds of the harmattan stains all forms of exposed surfaces, during this period, frequent cleaning of home utensils and surfaces is needed to maintain a hygienic surrounding.

Dust and rubbish carried by the wind accumulate on ships, glass windows, cars, etc. in a large amount than normal, causing unplanned worrisome cleaning exercises.

Conclusion

The harmattan season is a fun period of the year as it’s in this season most festivities happen such as Christmas, it’s therefore very important that we know the advantage and disadvantages of this season to stay healthy and safe.

9 Effects of Harmattan, its Advantages, and Disadvantages – FAQs

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A strong environmental health and conservation enthusiast, driven with passion to educate people on how to protect their environment and appreciate the beauty of nature.

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