YOUth should know: How to protect yourself when haze hits
Here are five things you can do to minimise the effects of harmful haze particles.
Singapore last experienced severe haze back in 2019, where a trans-national air pollution crisis affected several countries in Southeast Asia – including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – from February to September.
However, what seems like a forgotten experience might soon return again as the National Environment Agency reported an increased risk of hazy conditions due to Indonesia hotspots.
This is primarily due to predictions of a severe dry spell resulting from the El Nino effect.
Here are five things you can do to protect yourself when the haze hits:
1. Close doors, windows and set up portable air purifiers and humidifiers
According to HealthHub, you should close all doors and windows when the outdoor air quality appears to be worsening. This should help to reduce the rate of haze particles entering the home.
Air filters, purifiers and humidifiers can be beneficial in keeping indoor air fresh while waiting for outdoor conditions to improve. A good air purifier is one with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.
Dry air can exacerbate irritation caused by haze, potentially causing harm to the respiratory system. In turn, a humidifier can help maintain suitable humidity levels in your home, reducing throat and eye irritation.
Following improvements to the outdoor air quality, windows and doors should be reopened to promote air circulation in the enclosed areas.
READ MORE: How to identify if an air purifier is dropshipped
2. Stay indoors and reduce physical activities
Haze particles can affect the heart and lungs, especially in people who already have chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure.
To avoid these health complications, members of the public are greatly encouraged to stay indoors in the event of severe haze conditions.
To decide on immediate activities, members of the public are advised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to closely monitor the 1-hr PM2.5 readings and check the latest readings before proceeding.
The 24-hour PSI forecast, available during the haze season and the corresponding health advisories should be used when planning for next day outdoor activities.
3. Wear an N95 mask outdoors to filter out haze particles
For best effect, N95 masks must properly fit each user. To check for proper fit, the available mask must be appropriately sized, covering the nose and mouth comfortably to prevent any leaks.
Normal surgical masks are not effective in filtering fine particles that are 2.5 microns or less in width, despite being able to reduce the discomfort caused by haze by providing a barrier between the wearer’s nose and mouth.
Both the NIOSH-certified N95 masks and the EN-149 masks are designed to reduce a wearer’s respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants such as particles, gases or vapours.
However, N95 masks are not required in the case of short exposure as well as in indoor environments.
4. Stay hydrated and avoid smoking
In order to stave off the health complications created by exposure to haze, one can protect themselves further by staying hydrated and consuming the appropriate vitamins.
According to Gleneagles Hospital, foods rich in vitamin A can protect the eyes and lungs, as well as improve oxygen-carrying capabilities, building up the body’s immune system.
Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day can also help the body flush out any toxins absorbed by the lungs and skin, combating eye, throat and skin irritation caused by polluted air.
Additionally, smoking can weaken lung health, making smokers more susceptible to the harmful effects of haze. Smokers should avoid smoking while non-smokers should avoid inhaling secondhand smoke during periods of poor air quality.
Smoking in an enclosed area for an extended period of time can also cause gases and pollutants trapped indoors to build up to hazardous levels.
The usage of gas stoves, wooden fireplaces, candles, incense and anything that burns and emits smoke should also be limited.
5. Avoid unnecessary trips to the clinic
During the haze season, you are likely to experience mild respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, cough and a dry throat due to low air quality.
Poor air quality can weaken the immune system, leading to an increased risk of contracting infections. Those with sensitive eyes may also experience discomfort.
Mild symptoms can be cared for at home with over-the-counter medication as well as rest in an environment with cleaner air.
However, If you suffer from an existing chronic heart or lung condition such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may be more susceptible to the haze’s harmful effects.
According to the Ministry of Health, children and the elderly are generally more sensitive to the health effects of haze. Pregnant women are also encouraged to reduce exposure to haze for the health of their unborn baby.
If your symptoms worsen substantially, you should seek medical help at your nearest clinic or A&E department.