Haze Is Back!

Haze Is Back!

Haze season is back again due to forest fire. Gaseous compounds found in haze from forest fire include carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, methane, oxides of nitrogen and a variety of organic compounds. Solid and liquid particles found in haze are mostly organic and elemental carbon. These particles are usually very fine since they have very small diameter. Some particles are so small in diameter that it is smaller than 2.5 µm (PM2.5) and that makes our most common face mask to be ineffective against it.
There are also other trace element in Haze such as Potassium, Sulphur, Chloride, Aluminium, Silicium, Calcium and Ferrum which is not good for our health if inhale too much for a prolong period.

Bodily reaction to the Singapore haze
Nose: We inhale through our nose which is the first opening of the entry into our body. Since you are inhaling particles in the air, your body will attempt to secrete as much mucus as possible to flush out the foreign particles. Be prepared for your nose to be runny. When in haze situation, our nose needs to work harder to produce more mucus. As such, the nasal passage becomes block and may swell due to injury cause by blockage, infection or injury.

Airways and lungs: Not all particles get filter off by the nose and some particles may enter our lung. The particles that enter our lung may cause inflammation to the airway and our body will produce phlegm as a response to try to get rid of these particles. In severe cases, coughing is our body’s natural response to these particles entering our body and attempt to expel them. In a haze situation, our body reacts by producing more phlegm and thereby will cause the air passage way to our lung to narrow. The narrowing of air passage way and in combination with inflammation can lead to chronic respiratory problems and breathlessness.

Skin: Our skin may also become irritated. Those with a history of eczema may experience a flare-up as the skin reacts by becoming itchy and inflamed. Apply moisturizers several times a day to protect the skin.

Eyes: The eyes will also be affected after being exposed to the haze for extended periods of time. The eyes will tear naturally to clean itself. You can help by using preservative-free eye drops to remove the allergens. In severe cases; the conjunctiva may be affected and become inflamed causing the white of the eyes to redden.

Heart: Under the stress of inflamed airways and a multitude of other bodily irritations, our heart may pump faster thus possibly increasing our blood pressure. In some cases, these can cause a heart attack, stroke or heart failure for those people with coronary heart disease or whose hearts are already weaken such as the elderly.

People who are most at risk of haze.
Young children, elderly, pregnant women and people with heart or lung conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and congestive heart failure are the most at risk of haze due to the fine particles that they are exposure to. Adults working outdoor may also be at risk due to breathing of the air deeply and rapidly. The levels of risk will increase when the PSI level and the exposure period increase.

How to protect myself during the haze period?
  1. Keep track with the PSI level with the media, i.e: Phone apps, report from news / radio.
  2. Limit outdoor activities and try as much as possible to stay indoors.
  3. Stay indoors and close all windows and doors and use the air conditioner and air purifier if there is one. Do ensure too, that your air conditioner and air purifier filter are clean and if possible use HEPA filters that can block the finer particles.
  4. Pay special attention to individual at risk, elderly, pregnant women and young children.
  5. If driving, keep the windows closed and use the air conditioner in the re-circulation mode. Try installing a car air purifier if there is none.
  6. Limit any strenuous even when indoors.
  7. Avoid smoking; it is bad for health anyway.
  8. Don’t burn anything.
  9. People with heart or lung conditions, including asthma, should pay special attention to monitoring your condition. Seek medical advice immediately if feeling unwell.
  10. Clean the home regularly to limit the dust and soot that are trapped inside your home. Wet-cleaning methods (e.g. mopping or wiping) generally do not produce dust (unlike dry-dusting or vacuuming or sweeping) and can be used to remove settled dust.
  11. Air humidifiers can also be used to dampen down the air particulates; it will create additional moisture that will help reduce respiratory irritation.
  12. Use a N95 mask if there is a need to go outdoors. Normal surgical masks can protect the wearer’s nose and mouth from irritants in the air but are not effective in filtering fine particles.
  13. Drink water regularly to keep hydrated as the body will consume more water in process of removing the particles inside the body.
  14. Eat more fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins C, A and E such as orange, lemon, broccoli and etc. Vitamin C is important for the body to fight against inflammation and it has anti-oxidant properties. Eat more Vitamin C rich food such as orange, lemon and kiwi fruits. Food such as spinach and nuts are rich in Vitamin E and is good for the skin. Vitamin A rich food such as carrot and leafy vegetable are important for a healthy lung. So eat as much leafy vegetable as possible to have a healthy lung during this period. Whenever possible, include also Goji berry for the eyes.
  15. Stay away from smokers
  16. Remember to avoid going out as much as possible!

Haze advisory from Government
The National Environmental Agency (NEA) defines a Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) of 300 to be hazardous for health. At 200, the air is considered unhealthy for the young, the elderly and those with heart and respiratory problems. At 300, the smoke particles can aggravate symptoms and worse, trigger early onset of certain diseases.

24-hr 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

(Very Unhealthy)
Avoid^^^ prolonged** or strenuous*** outdoor physical exertion Minimise^^ outdoor activity Avoid^^^ outdoor activity
Minimise^^ outdoor activity Avoid^^^ outdoor activity Avoid^^^ outdoor activity
** Prolonged = continuous exposure for several hours
*** Strenuous = involving a lot of energy or effort
^ Reduce = do less
^^ Mininise = do as little as possible
^^^ Avoid = do not do