The Harmattan “Palaver”
The Harmattan haze is here again, and it’s a period many go down with conjunctivities caused by the dry, dusty air but not worry this article will give you an insight of its prevention, management and treatment.
Conjunctivity simply means inflammation of the conjunctiva (while part of the eye). It can either be caused by bacteria or viruses.
The harmattan induced conjunctivitis can be grouped under a viral infection, and it is called EPIDEMIC HAEMORRHAGIC Conjunctivities. It was first reported in West Africa in 1960s, because the first epidemics were about the same time as the American Apollo space mission. It is later called “Apollo Disease” in West Africa.
Symptoms and Signs of “Apollo”
- Gritty foreign body sensation
- Photophobia (Inability to stand bright light)
- Watery secretions
- The blood vessels are dilated thereby making the eyes appear red.
- It is acute (severe) but short-lived.
- It is highly contagious, so avoid sharing towel, napkins, handkerchiefs, room or direct contact with an infected person.
- The virus is transmitted from eye to eye by infected droplets so you should never use the same eye drop with an infected person.
- Using an eye drop prophylactically ( preventive) during the harmattan season.
Infected person should wear sunglasses to reduce the harsh effect the sunrays have on the cornea (black part of the eye).
In conjuctivities the virus invades the corneal epithelium (covering), and this results in the Photophobia ( Inability to open eyes in sun / bright light) mentioned earlier as one of the symptoms.
Treatment: Unlike bacteria, all viruses live inside the body cells, for this reason they are all IMMUNE to antibiotics, and there is no specific treatment for most viruses, so any treatment is essentially symptomatic that is to relieve the symptoms.
Antibiotic drops or ointments may help to prevent secondary infections.
In severe cases, local steroid drops may help the inflammation to subside quicker., and because steroid treatment is so effective, many patients (or their parents) obtain supplies from the local chemist for any flimsy reason which could lead to serious consequences.
Eyedrops especially Steroiodal drops should be strictly under medical supervision.