The haze season is back in Singapore, which means we can expect poorer air quality and more indoor activities to come. How can we protect ourselves, our family, and more importantly, our elderly loved ones who may be more prone to the effects of haze?
When does the haze season strike in Singapore?
To understand when Singapore is hit by the haze season, we have to first understand how haze originates and spreads.
Haze is caused when forests in the region are burnt to create land for agriculture. It is worsened by dry seasons, changes in wind direction, and low precipitation rates. During the monsoon seasons, which are usually from June to November, the winds carry the smoke to neighbouring areas, which results in haze.
How do I know if the air quality is poor?
To determine air quality, you can refer to the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI). This index measures air quality and indicates the severity of smoke haze.
A PSI reading of 101 and above is deemed unhealthy. The greater the PSI reading, the more severe the haze. The severity of the haze directly relates to the degree of impact on health the haze can have.
You can find the latest PSI here at the National Environmental Agency’s (NEA) website. During seasons where haze is expected, major news channels do report on the PSI, such as Channelnewsasia or Straits Times.
How can the haze affect my health?
The haze affects everybody, but some groups are more susceptible to the effects of haze on their health. These include children, the elderly, and individuals with chronic heart and lung disease.
Haze in Singapore is usually transient and our exposure is usually over a course of a few days, and considered short-term. For countries that have a high PSI index all year round, residents will face long-term exposure.
For healthy individuals, continuous exposure to unhealthy PSI levels over a few days may cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. These symptoms usually resolve on their own.
However, if you have pre-existing conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart failure, haze particles can affect the heart and lungs, so it’s important to take precautions.
While there is still limited data on the long-term effects of haze, what we know is that people who live in countries with long-term exposure have a higher risk of cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, reduced lung development, and may run the risk of developing chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma.
How can I protect my loved ones and myself from haze?
As Singapore does not experience haze year round and a PSI level in the mild to mid-range rarely results in school or office closures, people can go on about their daily activities such as work, exercising, or going to school.
However, if you have loved ones who might be more vulnerable to the effects of haze, what are some ways to buffer the impact of haze on their health?
The general advice is to stay home when there is poor air quality as doing so will limit your exposure to the unhealthy air outside.
Further precautions you can take at home include:
- Closing your doors and windows, especially when the outdoor air quality appears to be worsening. This will help to reduce the rate of haze particles entering the home
- Avoid burning candles or smoking especially during periods of poor air quality
- As haze is made up of particles and dust, mopping or wiping surfaces with a moist cloth can remove settled dust. These methods do not stir up dust particles and help to collect dust in one place
- When the air quality improves, allow for ventilation by opening the windows. If the air quality is still poor, you can improve air circulation by turning on the air-conditioning or fans
- Use a portable air purifier to further reduce the indoor particle level. There are some suggestions on the type of air purifier to get from the NEA, like getting one with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters
- Reduce vigorous activities such as exercise. Enjoy some family time indoors with these activities instead, which are friendly for all ages
The most obvious thing to do during a period of haze would be to avoid outdoor activities.
If that is not possible, consider doing the following to safeguard yourself:
- Wear a mask to filter out particles. Try to use an N95 mask as normal surgical masks don’t have the right filters to sufficiently protect you from haze. Remember to wear a mask that fits your face shape
- Rest well and drink lots of water to stay hydrated
- Watch your diet – eat nutritious, vitamin-packed foods to stay healthy and boost your immunity. Foods rich in vitamin A such as carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli can protect your eyes, lungs, and improve the body’s ability to circulate oxygen. Eating fruits and leafy greens gives you more vitamin C, which works with vitamin E to keep your body healthy
- For vulnerable groups of people like the elderly or people with health conditions, have your medication on hand for emergency situations. This could include antihistamines or prescriptions from the doctor
During the period of haze, our responsibility to care for our loved ones and ourselves may require us to spend more time at home and be vigilant about wearing masks when we head outside.
In the event that the haze situation worsens, it may become necessary for us to stay home with our loved ones for extended periods.
Maintaining an active lifestyle indoors can pose challenges, and the options for staying active at home may seem limited. Furthermore, the social isolation of being confined at home can deprive our loved ones of the mental stimulation they need, as they miss out on their usual social interactions and neighbourhood walks.
Homage’s home care services can offer a solution to these challenges. Our trained Care Pros, which include local caregivers and trained nurses, can help to tend to your loved one’s needs. They can support your loved ones in staying physically active and mentally sharp while remaining in the safety and comfort of their own home. Your loved ones can also engage in exercise and enjoy stimulating conversations and companionship with our Care Pros, ensuring their well-being during this period of haze.
- Managing Haze. (n.d.). https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/pollution-control/air-pollution/managing-haze
- MOH | FAQs on Haze Health Advisory. (n.d.). https://www.moh.gov.sg/resources-statistics/educational-resources/haze/faqs-on-haze-health-advisory
- Noble, A. M. I. (2023, September 7). A guide to haze season in Singapore. GEH. https://www.gleneagles.com.sg/health-plus/article/facts-about-haze
- Why the haze has reached Singapore’s shores again. (2023, October 7). The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/multimedia/graphics/2023/10/haze-returns-singapore-2023/index.html?shell