Experts harp on more water, fruits, vegetables during harmattan

By Wole Oyebade   |   14 January 2015   |   11:00 pm  

Harmattan-FruitsPERHAPS the harmattan haze came quite late and hard too. With it comes the dry, dusty air, low humidity, hot temperature in the daytime and cold temperature at night and early hours of the morning. 

  In the last couple of weeks, severe and widespread dust haze has affected most parts of the country, owing to the dust plume raised over Niger/Chad republic and transported by northeast wind over the country.

   Lagos just like other major city centres such as Asaba, Calabar, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Warri share about similar temperature in Degree Celsius of 25, 22, 23, 23, 24, 23, 22. 

  This is even as other major city centres like Jos and Kano have the lowest temperature in Degree Celsius of 11 and 12.    

  The Lagos State government, in fact, urged residents to take precautionary measures, as the state will be experiencing dusty warm days early in the morning and fog expectedly in the evenings.

  The state Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, who stated this, disclosed that the weather forecast from his ministry indicated that the maximum temperature expected all through this week is 31 Degree Celsius while the minimum temperature of 25 Degree Celsius is expected.

  Bello, who warned that visibility would be impaired, however, advised motorists and other road users to be cautious, reduce speed limits, observe road signs, so as to prevent unwarranted accidents.

 Of concern to individuals are health-related issues. There is the tendency for one to have high thirst for water because the throat dries up easily, the lips crack easily, the hair breaks easily and one loses more water either through sweating, talking or urinating. 

  More seriously are cold-related respiratory diseases, to which experts have harped on the need to stay warm and protected, drink more water and eat lots of fruits to boost the immunity.

Why you should stay warm

  Your grandma probably told you to bundle up for the cold weather as a kid or you’d risk getting sick. While that notion has been hotly debated for ages, a new study out of Yale University provides some evidence that Grandma was right.

  The common cold virus can reproduce more efficiently in the cooler temperatures found inside your nose than at your core body temperature — say in your lungs or the rest of your body. While that may surprise you, flu researchers have known this tidbit for more than 50 years — and that’s probably one of the places where your grandma’s advice came from.

  It’s your immune system’s job to fight back against rhinovirus (the virus that causes the common cold), so hypothetically it doesn’t matter how much of the gunk is replicating in your nose, as long as your body fights it. And it’s that exact point that the Yale researchers wanted to isolate: What if body temperature actually impacts our immune system’s ability to fight back against the nasty virus?

  In other words, if you let yourself get chilled, is your body less able to fight off a cold?

  To answer this question, researchers took cells from the airways of mice and examined them closely for immune response to rhinovirus. Some of the cells were incubated at 37 degrees Celsius (AKA 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or the average core human body temperature), while other were incubated at a significantly cooler 33 degrees Celsius.

  The team found that the cells’ natural immune response to the cold virus was impaired at the lower temperature. The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicated that the temperature drop reduced the immune system’s ability to eradicate the virus; the cooler temperature did not simply promote the virus’s ability to breed.

  This study suggests that immune systems seem to work better in those normal, warmer body conditions, according to article co-author Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D, a professor of immunobiology and molecular biology at Yale.

  “At the core body temperature, the rhinovirus is detected by the host immune system better, and the factors that block virus replication, type I interferons, work better at the higher temperature,” she said.

  Mice were used for this study, so the theory doesn’t automatically translate to humans, too. Iwasaki says more studies will have to be done. “But if similar mechanisms operate in humans, I would think that being exposed to the cold air would reduce nasal-cavity temperature, and makes one more susceptible to virus replication.”  

  So you can tell Grandma that she might have been onto something. “This study would support the idea that the cold weather is a risk factor, by reducing the immune response to the cold virus,” Iwasaki explains. “It would not hurt to bundle up in cold weather,” especially around the nose and air passageways, she says, where the virus is prone to replicating — and infecting you with a bug. 

  So grab your warm hat — or better yet, a balaclava. If nothing else, this study is one good reason you should stay warm to (potentially) prevent cold.

  Doctors also advised people to protect their bodies against various communicable diseases that go with harmattan period.

  Harmattan is usually a dry and dusty period associated with low humidity, which simply means there is very little amount of water in the atmosphere.

  As a result, the weather appears harsh to the hair and skin. Dr James Asoka, Medical Director, Sheffi Hospital, Egbeda, Lagos, said that harmattan season had health implications like pneumonia, asthma, nasal congestion and other health complications that might arose because of the dust.

  “People should wear warm clothing to minimise the likelihood of contracting these communicable diseases, “he said. Asoka also said that the skin should be well protected against the effect of harmattan, which could have vast damage to the body.

  “It is also safer sometimes to wear sunglasses to protect the eyes, where the winds are quite dusty and harsh to prevent infection,“ he said.

   Medical practitioner at the General Hospital, Gbagada, Lagos, Dr Olaleye Adewale advised people to always keep away from the dusty environment to guard against possible ailment.

  “People should ensure that their windows are being closed always to avoid dust which can trigger asthma and sickle cell disorder,” he said. Adewale said, “Due to the dusty atmosphere, there is need to imbibe healthy food preservation culture, especially food hawkers such as fruits to prevent food borne diseases. 

  “Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating. Our drinking water containers should also be properly covered, “he said.

 Deputy Chairperson, Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria, Dr Obiageli Nnodu, said on Monday that sickle cell patients should in fact drink more water and remain warm to avoid complications of their ailment.

  Nnodu gave the advice when he spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. Nnodu, who is also a Consultant Hematologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, said that cold induces crises and complications for the afflicted.

She said dehydration also facilitated crises and complications in the management of the disease.

  Nnodu said paying adequate attention to nutrition and hydration would reduce complications for sickle cell patients.

  “Children identified to have Sickle Cell Disease should be encouraged to drink a cup of water on waking up, and frequently during the day to ensure the yellow color of their urine becomes white,” she said

  Nnodu said that they should also be given a high-protein diet, fruits and vegetables, noting that this would reduce mortality and complications in patients with sickle cell disease.

  She said early diagnosis through newborn screening remained a major prevention against the prevalence of the disease.

  She added that the Sickle Cell Support Society advocated for massive awareness and education on the ailment. “Information about sickle cell disease should also be incorporated into the primary school curriculum so that stigma and other misconceptions about the disease will be avoided,” Nnodu said.

Eat fruits

Fruits like carrot, watermelon and pineapples among others that are in season. Vibrant orange carrots are a healthy addition to your daily diet. They are low in calories, contain no fat and supply significant doses of certain vitamins and minerals. While they taste good on their own, carrots have a mild flavor that makes them a versatile way to boost the nutrition of many other recipes as well.

 Carrots are a top source of vitamin A, and a 1-cup serving of chopped carrots provides 1,069 micrograms of the essential vitamin. Daily vitamin A needs are 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men. 

  In addition to promoting healthy eyes, vitamin A supports the health of your skin, teeth and bones as well. A 2002 article published in the “Journal of Nutrition” notes that beta-carotene, which is a carotenoid in carrots, might protect against skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays.

 One cup of chopped carrots supplies 16.9 micrograms of vitamin K, which is about 20 percent of the 75 to 90 micrograms you need each day. The most crucial role that vitamin K plays is in clotting your blood. Vitamin K supports the health of your bones as well, which can reduce your risk of fractures, breaks and osteoporosis as you age.



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