Fight The Haze
While the northern hemisphere gets ready for autumn, it’s misty days for us – and in the worst possible way. Yes, hazy days are here again as smoke billows from forest fires in a neighbouring country. GPs are seeing more people with coughs and irritated throats, and asthmatics have to stay indoors as the PSI veers into the unhealthy levels. Even if you don’t feel unwell, do take precautions.
For the past several years, we’ve suffered hazy skies between May and October as wind brings tiny particles of ash into our atmosphere. These particles are called PM10 (10 refers to the micron size of the particulate matters).
Studies show that continuous exposure over several years may cause:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular problems (heart attacks)
- Reduced lung development (children)
- Development of chronic respiratory diseases (asthma in children especially)
Short term effects include:
- The particles can affect both the heart and lungs, especially for those who already have existing heart or lung related diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart failure.
- It may take between 1 – 3 days for symptoms to show.
- For healthy individuals: continuous exposure to high levels of particles may cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
While Singapore isn’t affected by the haze for long period of time (throughout the year), any exposure to high PSI levels should not be taken for granted. It does not guarantee that we won’t suffer ill effects in the future.
Breathing in an excess of these particles can increase a person’s risk of developing viral and bacterial infections, as well as heart and lung diseases, cancer and stroke. While the bigger air particles are filtered out by the respiratory tract, tiny particles are typically deposited in the lungs. These tiny particles can accumulate over time and cause damage.
PSI level reading:
- 0 – 50: normal
- 51 – 100: moderate
- 101 – 200: unhealthy
- 201 – 300: very unhealthy
- 300 and above: hazardous
|24-hour PSI||Healthy persons||Elderly, pregnant women, children||Persons with chronic lung disease, heart disease|
|Normal activities||Normal activities||Normal activities|
|101 – 200
|Reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion||Minimise prolonged
or strenuous outdoor physical exertion
|Avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion|
|201 – 300
|Avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion||Minimise outdoor activity
|Avoid outdoor activity
|Minimise outdoor activity||Avoid outdoor activity||Avoid outdoor activity|
|Credit: Ministry of Health Official Website|
So what precautions should you take?
- Stay indoors and keep doors closed as much as possible.
- Roll up the windows of your car if you are driving.
- Use an air-conditioner in your home to help filter pollutants.
- Use an air purifier to catch very small particles.
- Stay hydrated as this helps the kidneys flush out any toxins absorbed through the skin and lungs.
- Cut down on caffeine or alcohol consumption as these promote fluid loss and leach nutrients from the body.
- Build up your immunity with foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- For any extended period of outdoor activities, wear a mask (N95) to prevent hazardous particles from entering your respiratory system.