Climate and Environment

Living Well Through Mexico’s Dry Season

Practical tips and advice for dealing with the effects of the dry season when you're living in Mexico, or here on an extended stay

Leaves through the seasons

When you’re living in Mexico, or staying here for an extended period, you’ll discover that by late February, areas affected by the dry season will become noticeably drier, and parched.

The heat and lack of moisture in the air can present several practical challenges for day-to-day living.  This article shares some tips and advice about how to stay well and comfortable during the driest months of the year.

Dealing with the dust and dander

Grass that isn’t watered regularly turns corn yellow and exposes the dry dusty ground; and pathways in the countryside feel bone dry underfoot as dust, pollen, and other allergens become free to roam through an air bereft of moisture aided by light breezes which come and go throughout the day.

Dust and dander are virtually unavoidable during the dry season, and stocking-up on boxes of soft tissue paper to help expel particles of dust and dander from your nose can be an effective first line of defense.

A regular wet mop drawn across the floors throughout your home, and a generously dampened cloth wiped across all surfaces where dust gathers can be helpful in reducing any discomfort caused by dust blowing around indoors.

If you wear glasses, regular cleaning can also alleviate eye irritation by preventing dust and pollen building-up on the lenses and frames.  If you’re particularly sensitive you might acquire an air purifier for use indoors, but make sure it has an effective filter that traps allergens, otherwise micro particles of dander will simply get recirculated.

Dust and dander tend to be more problematic inland and less so along the coasts, although at least some dust and/or pollen are inevitable almost anywhere during the dry months.

Dry skin and itching

Prolonged dryness in the air, especially when you’re living at elevation, can affect many people’s skin, with itching being one of the most common symptoms.

Showering less regularly, or simply showering without the use of much soap may help as this will enable your body’s natural oils to protect your skin and reduce itching or other skin irritations, e.g., rashes. (Frequent showers and soap wash away your body’s natural oils.)

Some people use a diluted mix of white vinegar and water instead of detergent-based shampoos to wash their hair which also helps your body’s natural oils to work on your scalp.  A high-quality moisturizing crème may help to alleviate symptoms related to skin irritated by dry air as you pass through these months.

Scarcity of water

There are various ways that your home in Mexico may be supplied by water, and many places across Mexico experience some form of water scarcity during the dry season.  For people who have large gardens (or live in condo complexes with extensive landscaped areas surrounding them) the dry season can be a challenge.

Water deliveries

As we mentioned in our article about spring climates in Mexico, this is the high trading season for the “Pipas”—tank trucks selling potable water.  These trucks can be seen trundling around roads and lanes in the dry season, especially in the countryside and outlying areas not served by a mains water supply.  Properties that are not supplied by some type of mains water system may collect and filter water for daily use during the rain season, and residents might arrange for water deliveries by truck to tide them over during the driest months.

Gardening in the dry season

Gardeners will spend a lot of time between January and May watering their plants to keep them from wilting and dying, and some embark upon a largely forlorn attempt to keep their grass from turning corn-yellow, which it will do naturally in the absence of a soaking each day. (Established grass usually won’t die and swiftly returns to green when the rains return.)

To conserve fresh water supplies, some larger homes and condo developments with extensive gardens use ‘gray water’ collected from rains and wastewater from the property, and store this in a special cistern underground; the stored supply is later used to water plants and lawns when there’s no rain to do the job.  Some sprinkler systems are designed to make effective use of this limited water supply although keeping grass green in the dry season does call for a lot of water, nonetheless.

Water rationing

Local municipalities may ration mains water feeds to homes during the dry season.  As we mentioned in a related article, Mexico’s water systems are not pressurized and instead deliver water into underground cisterns on the property which is then pumped-up to a tank on the roof for use in the home.  The water supplies that feed the cisterns may have their flow reduced or be turned-off on some days to conserve water, and thus residents need to use what water they have in their cistern more sparingly, or pay to have additional water supplies delivered by truck to top-up their cisterns.

Dealing with the dry heat

Even when you’re situated at elevation, temperatures can gradually climb throughout the day to reach highs of 30 degrees Celsius (86F) between March and May and although these high temperatures tend to last for only a few hours during the late afternoon, the heat combined with dryness, dust, and pollen can combine to create an uncomfortable mixture.

One method to deal with this dry and sometimes brittle climate is to structure your day so that you get most of your work and chores completed before lunchtime, and return to more vigorous activities in the early evening when the sun sets and the air temperatures fall leaving late evenings cooler, and comfortable.

If you’re situated at lower elevations where temperatures and humidity are higher, and evenings remain balmy, using fans, air conditioning, and swimming pools can help to keep you cool, and to sleep.  Wherever you’re situated, it’s a good idea to stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh water and limiting your intake of alcohol—that accelerates dehydration.

The return of the rain season

Tlāloc, the Aztec god of the rain, water, and fertility (from the Náhuatl, ‘He who makes things sprout’) was worshipped as guardian of the divine gift of rainfall that refreshes and brings life and continuity to the land and all depending on it.  When you’re living in Mexico, by late April you’ll likely be awaiting the ‘return of Tlāloc’ with considerable anticipation.

When the seasonal rains return, another transition period begins from dry to wet, although the flora respond much more quickly to the return of the rains than they do to their departure.

The tipping point

You might notice subtle shifts in the atmosphere in weeks and days leading-up the return of the rains: an elusive smell of moisture, a slight dip in temperatures, a sweeter fragrance in the early morning air before the sun’s heat takes hold.  The reappearance of the rains may also be preceded by a series of ad-hoc windstorms. And then a day arrives when the rains return in earnest.

Typically, seasonal rainstorms are introduced by claps of loud thunder rolling-in over the mountain tops as heavily laden storm clouds gather overhead.  The wind picks up and drops abruptly, yielding to dramatic torrential downpours that gift immediate respite to the parched land, helping to return corn-yellow grass to emerald green and saturating the air with moisture that comprehensively settles the dust and dander, causing the flora to flourish with a joyful energy in a way that all the gardeners’ watering cans and sprinklers can never accomplish.

For those who have lived in Mexico for a while, experiencing this tipping point between the dry season and the return of the drenching rains helps to bring into focus the natural cycles which greatly influence these lands far beyond the dust and flora, and also extends a reminder that we have to pass through the challenges and irritations of a long dry spell to better appreciate the divine gift of refreshing rain.

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