Jun 24 Signs to look out for

SINGAPORE - LITTLE Rayyan (above) has been holed up in bed with a high fever and cough for three days.

The three-year-old has a history of breathing difficulties and wheezing, and was warded at KK's Women's and Children's Hospital for a week twice in recent months.

Rayyan has been staying indoors because of his illness but the haze has caught the attention of the bubbly child.

"There is a smell of burning even after we close all the windows. He would sniff the air and say, 'Daddy, there's a strange smell', his father, Mr Khai Tyson, 39, said.

"He will stay at home until the haze goes away," the security manager added.

Parents in the Tysons' situation may find this information useful.

What are the effects of haze on children, both indoors and outdoors?

The haze contains pollutant gases and particulate matter that can irritate the airways, eyes and skin. This can be worse if the child has conditions such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and eczema.

It can exacerbate these underlying conditions. The likelihood of adverse effects is linked to the severity of the haze and the duration of exposure.

So staying outdoors for prolonged periods can expose the child to more effects of the haze.

What signs should parents look out for?

The most common symptoms are:

• Lungs and lower airways - cough and wheezing or breathlessness and decreased ability to maintain regular activity • Eyes - teary and itchy or red • Nose and upper airways - itchy, sneezy and runny nose, also cough and nose bleeds • Skin - itchy, with rashes or redness.

What precautions can parents take?

Minimise outdoor activities where possible. When it is necessary to go outdoors, avoid exertions like running. Vigorous physical exercise can increase the air intake by 30 to 50 per cent, which means inhaling more pollutants.

N95 masks can filter the pollutants quite effectively. Unfortunately, there are no N95 masks made specifically for children, though bigger children can use the smaller sizes.

Lastly, ensure your child has a healthy, balanced diet, adequate fluid intake and rest.

? Source: Associate Professor Daniel Goh,

Head of Department of Paediatrics, National University Hospital.