How to Survive the Harmattan in Ghana

Low visibility is one of the manifestations of harmattan
Low visibility is one of the manifestations of harmattan | © David Brossard / Flickr
Kwame Aidoo

From December through to February, the harmattan is the north-easterly Sahara trade winds which rush in desert-like sandstorms, leaving skin dry, lips cracked, and everything covered in dust. However, it also results in low mosquito breeding rates and your laundry drying faster! The following are tips on how to survive the harmattan in Ghana.


You might not sweat as much during the harmattan but drinking water regularly is still strongly advised. Eating fruit is also recommended. Keeping hydrated helps to keep the skin smooth and reduces stress. People who stay outdoors during harmattan for long durations need to keep a balanced water level at all times.

Dose up on vitamin C

Temperatures are generally low during harmattan mornings, when it can get as cold as 9°C (48°F), but afternoons have had recorded temperatures of higher than 30°C (86°F). The relative humidity takes a nose-dive. As such, there’s the likelihood of contracting flu because of the combination of the dust and undulating temperatures. A daily dose of vitamin C keeps your health up and nausea at bay.

Fend off cracked lips

Wind-chilled and cracking chapped lips are seen everywhere the harmattan visits. For this reason, moisturisers, creams and balms meant for preventing dry lips are worth keeping nearby. Locally, shea butter, almond oil and anything vitamin E-based will be your best friend during this season. You can also try the easy Ghanaian homemade method of leaving thin slices of cucumber over your lips for five minutes.

Low visibility is one of the manifestations of harmattan

Avoid buildings fires

Ghanaian forests and shrub lands, especially in the Northern regions, have faced disastrous spreading bush fires which are difficult to combat. Fire belts are usually put up to prevent destruction of foliage when the dry season hits. Measures are being put in place as part of the national climate change and fire fighting plan.

Dress for harmattan

During cold harmattan phases, multiple layers become requisite as opposed to an option. However it gets warm really quickly sometimes, and your overcoat will become unnecessary. Throw on a pair of jeans and layer a T-shirt under a sweater and don’t forget your dust resistant glasses.

Dusty road during harmattan

Hand, hair and body care

Your hands, face, hair and body need just as much nourishing care as your lips do when harmattan strikes in Ghana. The sunny yet slightly chilling afternoons with chalky atmospheres cause thin films of dry dust to settle on your skin, especially with outdoor exposure. Regular showers are recommended, and oily moisturising body creams are essential.

Cover your face

The dryness that harmattan brings also encourages dried-out and irritated nasal passages so it is essential to carry a nose spray. The harsh harmattan is not the best season for asthmatics either, therefore, it’s recommended to keep your face covered, use air purifiers and inhalers when needed, and stay away from dusty places i.e. anywhere outside during a sandstrom.

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