Asthma sufferers, don't let haze get you down

PHOTO: Asthma sufferers, don't let haze get you down

With the haze expected to hit Singapore in the coming weeks, your child's asthma could get worse.

But don't worry as long as their allergies are kept under control, because haze does not cause asthma, said experts.

Liew Woei Kang, consultant paediatrician at SBCC Baby and Child Clinic in Gleneagles Hospital, told My Paper: "Haze is a pollutant and, thus, an irritant to your respiratory tract, eyes and skin. If you have existing asthma and allergic diseases that are not well-controlled, they may flare up."

Dr Liew, who is also president of the Asthma and Allergy Association, added: "It is very important that patients with asthma keep it under control, and take preventor medication if they have been prescribed it.

"Children generally have a less mature immune system, higher respiratory rates...Thus, when the haze comes, it would have a greater irritating effect on a child's airways."

In Singapore, about 5 per cent of adults and 20 per cent of children suffer from asthma.

Besides asthma, conditions such as sensitive nose might also be aggravated by the haze, said Tan Ngiap Chuan, a family physician and director of the research department at SingHealth Polyclinics.

"Doctors will have to do their due diligence in advising caregivers, who must supervise and motivate children when it comes to (them taking their) medicine," he said.

Adults with asthma should be mindful of the haze, too. According to the results of a survey released last month by pharmaceutical company Mundipharma, 94 per cent of the 200 Singaporeans with asthma who were polled believe their condition is well-controlled. But according to global clinical guidelines, only one in four actually has it under control.

Ang Keng Been, president of the Indoor Air Quality Society Singapore, suggested that one should minimise outdoor activities in the event of haze, and use an air purifier at home.

"We spend the majority of our time indoors...There is no natural purification technique to remove fine particles indoors at the moment, except with a purifier. Customers also need to be aware of products with ionising features, because those may release potentially harmful ozone in an indoor environment," Dr Ang said.

Meanwhile, efforts are under way to prepare the nation for smoked-filled skies, especially since this year's haze could be worse than last year's, when the three-hour PSI hit a record 401.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has sounded a warning about the south-west monsoon, which is expected to strengthen in the coming weeks. Strong winds could carry the haze from fires in Indonesia over to Singapore.

Since Monday, NEA has been issuing a daily haze forecast.

Last month, every household here received three N95 face masks.

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