Lately, Singapore has been encountering a number of haze weather conditions that have affected neighboring areas. It has become an alarming issue that every individual needs to be aware of. Without proper knowledge, you may not be able to know how to respond once a haze has hit the city. If you are getting curious to know how to be prepared for haze, this guide will help you out.
What causes haze?
The haze in Singapore happens because of the smoke from forest fires in Sumatra. These are brought in by the winds usually from May to October. While Singapore has already done some good in keeping the flooding issue at bay, haze is something they do not have enough control over yet. Despite this, authorities are already working with those in Indonesia so that the haze problem can be fought off.
What happens when there’s haze?
The normal effects of haze to the public is that they can cause some sort of irritation on their eyes, nose, skin, throat and airways. These are caused by the fine dust particles brought about by the haze. The severity of these haze health effects largely depends on how severe it is. And usually, it is measured by the National Environment Agency (EPA) for its Pollutants Standards Index (PSI). But really, there isn’t a real threat to the health of the general public other than eye irritation, dry throat and cough, runny nose and sneezing.
When is haze considered unhealthy?
When the PSI falls between 0 and 50, it is considered ‘Good.’ If it falls 101 to 200, the haze is considered as ‘Unhealthy.’ Once the PSI falls over 300, the haze is already considered ‘Hazardous.’
Once air quality has reached an ‘Unhealthy’ level, it may trigger mild aggravation of respiratory-related illness symptoms especially for those who have a chronic lung or heart problem.
What happens if you breathe in haze?
Since haze is formed when dust, exhaust, smoke, and other particulate matter form in the atmosphere, it can be difficult to breathe in these conditions. Its fine particles may even contain harmful toxic chemicals that will be hard to breathe. But its effects are not the same as second hand smoke that you get from cigarettes.
Haze effects on people with respiratory problems
While haze doesn’t really pose a threat to health, it does have some effects on individuals who have a preexisting condition such as asthma, chronic sinusitis, chronic long disease, or allergic skin conditions. Individuals who have either of these conditions may experience more severe symptoms when they expose themselves to haze. The same can be said for children and the elderly.
Short-term effects of haze
Apart from being a nuisance, haze can have some short-term effects on your health. These include:
- Healthy individuals: Irritation of the eyes, throat and nose
- Patients with chronic heart or lung disease problems can experience more issues
When you get exposed to haze, the symptoms may not start showing until 3 days after so it is best to keep an eye out for your health.
Long-term effects of haze
While haze does not really happen in Singapore throughout the year, exposure to it only produces short-term effects. But for those who live in areas where air pollution is rampant, the long-term effects could include possible heart attacks, development of chronic respiratory diseases, and reduced lung development. As such, it is recommended that you refrain from exposing yourself to too much haze so you don’t encounter any of its effects on the health.
How to protect yourself from the haze
Apart from preparing with an N95 mask, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of haze. Here are a few tips to keep you prepared:
- Drink lots of water. Make sure to carry a bottle of water so you can reduce throat irritation. This will also help protect your voice.
- Be mindful of your health. If you already have a pre-existing medical condition such as asthma, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, or lung disease, you need to take your medication regularly. If you don’t feel well, take time to see your doctor.
- Avoid wearing contact lens. If you wear contact lens, reduce wearing them on a hazy day. This is because the haze may worsen dry eyes and cause irritation.
- Keep your eyes hydrated. Use a preservative-free lubricating eye drop so you can moisturize your eyes. If your eyes become dry and allergic to the haze, you can apply cold compress to them. You can also use an over-the-counter eye drop once you have an eye irritation.
- Go for skin care products that contain antioxidants. This will help reduce the effects of haze exposure on your skin.
- Stay indoors. As much as you can, stay indoors where the air is free from the contaminants. If you need to exercise, opt for the gym. If you really need to step outside, you can wear an N95 mask that has properly fitted. You can also wear goggles to reduce instances of eye irritation.
When is it time to wear a mask?
Whenever there is haze, people tend to panic and hurry to buy a face mask such as the N95 mask. However, it is important to know that a mask is not needed until the PSI levels have reached the ‘Unhealthy’ range. For individuals that have a preexisting respiratory system-related illness, however, it is best to speak with a physician to know more about respirator masks.
The good thing about being ready with these masks is that whenever there is a haze forecast, you can wear them right away. Since these masks were intended to keep out the fine particles in the air, you would not be able to breathe them in as much. Respirator masks like the N95 mask are different from surgical or paper masks. Make sure you invest in a few.
Remember, if you need to see a doctor, make sure to arrange a check up as soon as possible. This way, your doctor can attend to the things bothering you after you have been exposed to haze. It also helps to stay updated for any haze advisory. You can get updates through these websites:
- NEA – www.nea.gov.sg/psi
- Weather – www.weather.gov.sg
- Twitter – http://twitter.com/neasg
- NEA Hotline – 1800-CALL NEA (1800 2255 632)
- MSD Weather Hotline – 65427788