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The harmattan season is a period that everyone living in West Africa cannot escape from. The weather is very dry, windy, dusty, and either extremely cold or hot, depending on whether you are standing under the sun or in the shade. Weather conditions during the harmattan season can affect our health, especially the eyes. This is because we directly exposed the nerves in the eyes to the harsh weather.

Dry eyes are one of the most common eye challenges experienced by many people. Our eyes have a layer that enables them to feel comfortable and protects them. The harmattan weather makes the tears in the eyes dry up faster. This results in a gritty (sand-like) feeling in the eyes and burning sensations which could be very uncomfortable to deal with.

Ocular (eye) allergies are also common because the harmattan weather makes it easy for dirt and dust to be dispersed into the eyes. When the eyes sense the dirt and dust particles, they trigger the body to release agents to fight them. This results in itching, redness and sometimes a watery discharge.

We can protect our eyes from these harmattan eye challenges by keeping to the following simple eye care hygiene tips:

  • Instead of rubbing your eyes when experiencing any form of discomfort or irritation in your eyes, use water to flush it out.
  • If you have blurry vision and you are using prescribed glasses, endeavour to wear them always to see well through the harmattan haze. It’s also very necessary to wear protective eyewear to minimise the impact of the sunlight outdoors.
  • Everyone is advised to observe all necessary personal hygiene rules regarding eye care. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes when you go outdoors. Wash your hands if you touch dirty surfaces or objects before touching your eyes.
  • Do not share personal items such as towels, handkerchiefs, bed linens or sheets. These items facilitate the quick spread of eye infections. They should also be washed and changed regularly.
  • Increasing your water intake and the use of eye lubricants such as artificial tears will help your eyes to remain well hydrated and prevent eye dryness. Endeavour to consult your eye doctor before purchasing any eye lubricant.

If you observe any unusual long-lasting symptoms in your eyes during this harmattan season, please see your eye doctor immediately.