Now that the haze is back, we recommend seven ways to protect yourself from the haze and keep your body in it’s best condition regardless of air quality.
The detrimental effects that haze can have on a person is dependent on his or her health as well as the duration and intensity of outdoor activity. Here are some ways to protect yourself from the hazy onslaught:
Clearly one of the best ways to battle the health effects of haze is to avoid going outdoors. Try to stay indoors as much as possible and shut the windows. Switch on the air conditioner if possible or use suitable air filters and air purifiers to remove dust particles and contaminants in the air.
Avoid Strenuous Outdoor Activities
Minimise your duration of exposure outdoors. If you have to do outdoor sports or exercises, try bringing your workout indoors or postpone it instead. Aerobic activities such as running, cycling or playing football will require deep breathing and that would mean inhaling all the harmful pollutants in the air. Those who have pre-existing chronic heart or lung conditions, or who are not feeling well, should avoid going outdoors. Even if you do not have a pre-existing condition, it is still better to be safe than sorry as excessive exposure to the minuscule dust particles can increase one’s risk of developing viral and bacterial infections.
Wear A Mask
If you must go outdoors, put on a respiratory mask. Surgical masks or paper masks do not offer any protection against the solid particles present in the air. An appropriate respiratory mask to combat the haze would be the N95 mask, which is designed to filter airborne particles and protect wearers from inhaling the haze particles. These respiratory masks are available at major pharmacies and supermarkets.
Hydrate Frequently And Increase Fibre Intake
Given that haze can irritate your throat, causing it to be dry or sore or even lead to coughing, it is essential to drink up to flush away the toxins absorbed through the skin and lungs. Eating more fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins A and C can boost your immune system. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach and are known to protect your eyes and lungs from air pollution. Foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, kiwis and broccoli can promote lung tissue health and prevent you from catching the common flu.
Take Medication To Alleviate Symptoms
Haze can cause some adverse effects on your health which includes eye irritation, running or stuffy nose, throat irritation, headache or lung inflammation. If you experience any of these symptoms, you might want to relieve them with eye drops or cough tablets and mixtures available at pharmacies (consult your doctor first). If your symptoms worsen, do seek medical attention immediately.
On top of all the toxins present in the hazy air, the last thing you want to do is to further irritate your lungs with cigarette smoke. Avoid smoking during this period as it will make your lungs even more sensitive to the effects of air pollutants.
Pay Attention To Air Quality Updates
Check the local environment agency’s website regularly for updates on the latest air conditions. You can visit NEA for live updates on the latest PSI readings to verify if the air quality is within a healthy PSI range.
Bearing these tips in mind, stay safe and protected from the harmful effects of the haze and hope that the air clears up soon!
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The haze affects your whole body. By Dawn Chen
How haze affects your senses. Photo: 123RF.com/Johan Larson
Whenever the haze rolls around, you might find yourself sniffing or tearing more than usual. Sometimes, you might even start coughing, get a sore throat, and develop skin rashes. Experts from Singapore Medical Group (SMG) shed light on the different ways the haze can affect you.
Dr Valerie Tay, medical director and consultant, ear nose and throat specialist of SMG ENT Centre explains how the haze affects your throat and respiratory tract below.
Why does the haze give me a sore throat?
Haze contains irritants and particulate matter that can traumatise the lining of our air passages and throat, leading to inflammation. This usually causes your throat to feel sore. The irritation can also lead to frequent coughing, which can further aggravate the inflammation of your voice box, which gives rise to throat pain and a hoarse voice.
How does the haze affect my respiratory tract?
The PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) measures the concentration of particulate matter (PM) less than 10 microns in size, and PM 2.5 measures that of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in size. In general, the smaller the particulate matter, the easier it can penetrate your lungs. PM 2.5 is more dangerous as it can enter deep into the small sacs of your lungs and may even be able to cross into your bloodstream. It is also thought that PM 2.5 can trigger inflammation and oxidative damage, hence increasing the risk of plaque formation in the blood vessels.
Is breathing in the haze similar to breathing in second hand smoke?
The haze is an accumulation of dust, smoke, exhaust and other particulate matter in the atmosphere. While it’s also made up of fine particulate matter and harmful toxic chemicals, its components are not the same as that of second hand smoke from cigarettes.
Can long-term exposure to the haze cause further health complications?
Studies have shown that long-term exposure to the haze can cause both lung and heart disease. On the other hand, short-term exposure to the haze tends to cause more effects on our upper respiratory tract such as cough, throat irritation and runny nose.
Photo: 123RF.com/Piotr Marcinski
Dr Daphne Han, medical director and consultant, ophthalmologist of SMG Vision Centre, explains how the haze affects your eyes below.
Why does the haze cause my eyes to sting and tear?
The tiny particulate matter – together with the polluting gases like sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere – come into contact with and irritate the outer layers of the eyes, which are called the conjunctiva. This causes an allergic reaction that gives rise to dilated conjunctiva blood vessels and makes the eyes look pink.
The eye may also become drier, and you may experience a sandy or gritty feeling in your eyes from both the dryness and the physical contact with the particulate matter and gases. If you also experience tearing or become extremely sensitive to light, it may point to a more serious condition like dry eyes or allergies.
Can long-term exposure to the haze cause permanent damage to my eyes?
In general, symptoms of eye irritation from long term exposure to pollutants are not permanent, and stop once there’s no more exposure to the haze. In some rare cases, eyes may suffer from scarring if there’s been an exceptionally severe allergic reaction.
Dr Gavin Ong, medical director and consultant, dermatologist of The Skin Specialist, explains how the haze affects your skin below.
Why does the haze cause my skin to be irritated?
The dust particles themselves can be extremely drying to the skin and may also clog your pores. The accompanying chemicals can also give rise to an increase in skin irritations. Furthermore, the haze gives the impression that the amount of sunlight shining through is less than usual, when in fact the ambient ultraviolet (UV) light is still high. The combination of ambient UV rays and haze can accelerate skin ageing.
Do I need to change my skincare regime in light of the haze?
People with sensitive skin may require more frequent washing to remove the build-up of dust particles and chemicals on the skin. Pick a non-drying skin cleanser to prevent your skin from getting stripped of moisture. After cleansing, use a good moisturiser that can enhance skin repair and renewal. Topical antioxidants are also very helpful in reducing damage from all the free radicals generated by the haze and environment.
How to protect yourself against the haze
Skincare tips for hazy days
Quick facts about the haze
Immunity-boosting foods to eat during the haze