After 2018 ended with little more than a whiff of the cold dry wind many love to hate, the harmattan’s grand entry as the past year wound down came as a shock. The absence of traffic on Lagos roads due to the annual exodus of residents to their hometowns seemed to pave the way for the gusts carrying dry, cold air and dust from the Sahara. One morning you were battling the simmering heat, the next you woke up with your nose dry.
Here comes winds whose voices you hear conversing, faces white and dried up and air that goes up your nose and settles behind your forehead head with some hammering. All of which is reminiscent of the Night King in that last battle.
Your hair doesn’t have to be like that of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands. There are a wide variety of oils and organic hair products you can use to keep your hair from being more frizzy than usual. Wrapping the hair in a silk scarf while you sleep is even more important right now so you don’t lose moisture while you go out, remember to keep it protected. Do you remember how in elementary science class, we were taught that our hair, scarves and even bedsheets will have sparks of electricity due to the friction generated by the air’s quality at this time. How magical it is to run fingers on beds and see the sparks flying about.
As a danfo coasted down a busy Lagos road, the driver teasing someone standing by her stall, “See as harmattan come make your face dull.” It was a young girl and it appeared they knew each other as she smiled at him with recognition and mild bemusement. Then he went, “me wey i dey talk na my beard dey hide my real face. My face be like person wey dey suffer. This harmattan ehn.”
You don’t want to look like you were mistakenly locked in a walk-in cold room for some time, lips dry, white and chapped, white lines appearing whenever you scratch your body and colour draining from them. Body moisturizers would help you lock in moisture. Leaving your skin unprotected will make it dry and may lead to itching.
Imagine your kidneys pulsing with glee as they get what they need to keep your internal plumbing going smoothly. Kidney disease is a chronic condition that can be expensive, long term and stressful. If there’s a way to prevent it or reduce your chances and it is drinking water please do it. This weather would make you more thirsty than usual, please do not wait for this to happen before you drink water.
Dress warm as the cold can be biting at least in the morning. You could use water heaters or just boil water for your bath. Don’t be a hero like Folabomi Amoo said. Be humble and care for your body. Dust the surfaces at home and work more frequently, keep your windows shut and get a humidifier if possible.
Be more watchful of fire as the dry air makes fire a big risk at this time. Turn off cooking gas when not in use, unplug electrical appliances, check your car is functioning properly, keep flammable objects like matches, lit candles and phones (yes, phones) away from diesel cans, petrol kegs and our ubiquitous continually droning generators.
Sickle cell patients need to drink more water, dress warm, drink warm fluids when it is cold and keep their clinic appointments. The weather may increase the frequency of crises. People with asthma need to protect themselves by wearing masks. The Yoruba say, ‘ma fi itiju karun’. Roughly translated as not to fall sick due to worrying about what people will say. Wear your mask or use a clean handkerchief. The exhaust on this city’s roads is bad enough, don’t let the dust be another trigger for you. If you are living with any other condition like kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes and are worried about how this weather may affect you, please do not wait till you feel worse, see your doctor.
Children, pregnant women and the elderly are more vulnerable at this time and we must do our best to keep many people as warm as possible. Homeless people, mentally ill people who are not being cared for in a psychiatric facility but are left to roam the streets are also at risk. You can leave extra sweaters somewhere they can find. You could donate to the organizations procuring blankets and warm clothing for people in the northern part of Nigeria who feel the cold more. Remember the temperature drops to 11 degrees in some places and that these areas mostly do not have access to a regular power supply and central heating.
Before harmattan, some used to have white lines, ash-like feet. It’s 2020, please moisturize. It doesn’t make you less of who you are. Even better, it keeps you healthy, confident and keeps your loved ones happy to see you. Besides, you would be raising a new generation of boys who look up to you and realise that adequate self-care is important and a complement rather than a dent on masculinity. Keep your beard from being frizzy with the variety of oils available.
In all, this period may be tough for many reasons. That cold air especially can make one feel ill but everything has its end, we only have to do our best to survive. Two good things though- clothes get to dry quickly unlike in the rainy months. Secondly, agbalumo is out!
How do you cope with harmattan?