Doctors expect more patients

PHOTO: Doctors expect more patients

SINGAPORE - She has been nagging her daughter, 9, to stay indoors the past few days.

She also keeps reminding her to drink plenty of water.

No, it's not because the exams are around the corner.

It's because of the haze, which homemaker Nur Haida fears will affect her daughter, who is asthmatic.

Yesterday, the 24-hour pollutant standards index (PSI) hit 69 at 7pm, up from an overall reading of 55 just the day before. The PSI came down slightly to 66 by 9pm.

The readings fall into the category of "moderate air quality", with "good" at one end and "hazardous" at the other.

Said Ms Nur Haida, 27: "She was diagnosed with asthma about a week ago, and now, she has to pump her inhaler twice in the morning and twice at night.

"I'm hoping it doesn't get worse with the haze."

Dr Phua Ling Yaw, who sees patients at Shenton Family Medical Clinic (Duxton), said the number of patients with respiratory problems has more than doubled over the past one to two weeks.

He usually sees up to 20 such patients a week, but the number has increased to about 50 these days.

Said Dr Phua: "When the haze hits, there's an increase in smoke particles in the air, making it more toxic to the airways.

"Patients who already suffer from asthma or other lung or airway problems may feel the condition exacerbating."

He added that he usually uses his nebuliser (which administers medication in a form of mist inhaled into the lungs) on his patients two to three times a week.

The past two weeks, however, have seen him using it two to three times a day.

Dr Phua said that those with certain skin conditions such as eczema also feel the effects of haze, although less accutely.


With the haze, he said, moisture in the air is reduced, causing one's skin to become drier. A person with eczema would thus feel more uncomfortable.

Dr Madeleine Chew, a resident doctor at MW Medical Centre at The Shoppes Marina Bay Sands, said that while she hasn't yet seen an uptrend in respiratory cases, she expects more in the coming weeks.

She said: "The haze has just started, so give it another week and I think we might see more."

Dr Leslie Tay, a senior doctor at Karri Family Clinic, agreed, saying that he expects to see a 10 to 20 per cent increase of patients with asthma soon.

Dr Chew advised the elderly and young children, who may be more susceptible to haze-related health issues, to refrain from exercising and to seek treatment promptly if they do not feel well.

A notice on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) website, dated Sept 8, said hotspots, which indicate burning ground fires, may escalate during this period.

It added that scattered hotspots with slight to moderate smoke haze have been detected mainly over the central and southern parts of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The statement said Singapore is likely to experience brief periods of hazy conditions, should the fires in the region persist, and if the winds blow from the south.

This article was first published in The New Paper.