Health Effects Of Haze

24 Sep 1997

The health effects of haze are mainly caused by the irritant effects of fine dust particles on the nose, throat, airways, skin and eyes. The health effects of haze will depend on its severity as measured by the Pollutants Standards Index (PSI). There is also individual variation regarding the ability to tolerate air pollution. Most people would at most experience sneezing, running nose, eye irritation, dry throat and dry cough from the pollutants. They are mild and pose no danger to the health of the general population.

However, persons with medical problems like asthma, chronic lung disease, chronic sinusitis and allergic skin conditions are likely to be more affected by the haze and they may experience more severe symptoms. Children and the elderly in general are more likely to be affected. For some, symptoms may worsen with physical activities.

For persons under medical treatment, it is important that they take their medication regularly. Persons with chronic heart and lung problems are advised not to engage in outdoor sporting activities if the PSI is above 100. There is otherwise no need to take extraordinary precautions.

What to do when you have a haze induced health problem: The current haze related health problems are generally mild and can be treated easily. Eye irritation may be relieved by applying normal saline eyedrops which can be purchased from any pharmacy or medicine shop. Persons wearing contact lenses who experience eye irritation are advised to discontinue wearing contact lenses temporarily. Mild sneezing, running nose, dry throat and dry cough can be relieved by cold tablets or cough mixture, obtainable from any pharmacy where the pharmacist's advice can be sought.

Persons whose symptoms do not improve or have worsened should see their GP or go to a government polyclinic.

In the case of breathlessness or asthma, the public are advised to seek treatment from their GPs or government polyclinics. For most people, there is no need to seek treatment at the A&E clinics of hospitals. Polyclinics and most GP clinics are equipped to treat even the more severe patients. Nebuliser treatment for acute asthmatic attacks is available. In the polyclinics, very sick patients e.g. those with severe breathlessness are given top treatment priority. If necessary, the polyclinic will make arrangements for an ambulance to send the patient to the hospital.

Treatment at government polyclinics is heavily subsidised. Those who require hospitalisation but have financial difficulty can request for financial assistance. No one will be denied treatment because of inability to pay.

The Ministry is monitoring the situation closely. There has been a slight increase in attendances at government polyclinics since the haze problem started. The Ministry wishes to assure the public that most GP clinics and the polyclinics have the necessary expertise and resources to deal with the medical problems resulting from the haze.

The Ministry will make available additional treatment facilities and deploy more staff in polyclinics if the attendances increase significantly and there is a need to do so.

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