How the haze can affect your baby

It’s not even that time of the year yet but the haze has descended upon on our island over the last weekend. Singaporeans woke up to a hot and gloomy Monday when the PSI hit the 155 mark. Just when we thought that things were turning around, the PSI climbed to a hazardous 321 at 10pm last night. We know where the haze in Singapore originates from and that our government is working hard to make things better, but the haze is likely to stay for a little while more. Parents, the more pressing issue at hand would therefore be protecting your children and babies from the air pollution. Let’s first find out what the hazy air that we have been breathing consists of.

What is in the air?

According to NEA’s website, pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, ozone and hydrocarbons form the bulk of the haze in Singapore. These pollutants are harmful to us and our children in many ways:

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  • Nitrogen oxide: Irritates eyes and nose, and can cause nausea. Higher concentrations can cause rapid spasms, throat swelling, and even lead to death
  • Sulphur dioxide: Also irritates the eyes, nose and throat. Toxic when inhaled and corrodes when skin comes into contact with the gas. Forms acid rain.
  • Carbon monoxide: A colourless and odourless gas which causes poisoning in low concentrations and death in higher concentrations
  • Lead, ozone and hydrocarbons: Lead is harmful for the neurological development of children under the age of six while hydrocarbons have been found to contain cancer-causing properties. Exposure to ozone causes irritation of eyes, nose and throat, and shortness of breath.

As if the haze in Singapore alone is not bad enough for your baby, a couple of factors can only exacerbate the situation:

Babies with respiratory problems

If your infant has recently been diagnosed with respiratory problems like asthma, the haze in Singapore couldn’t have come at a worser timing. As mentioned earlier, pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide can cause irritation to your baby’s ears, nose, throat and lungs which form part of his respiratory system. When your child’s ENT is affected by pollutants, respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function are likely to develop or relapse. Clinics and hospitals are bracing themselves for an increase in asthma and allergy cases as the haze in Singapore continues to worsen.

Living near industrial, densely-populated areas

In large HDB towns such as Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh and industrial areas in various parts of Singapore, air quality can seem poorer. Even tall buildings and skyscrapers in the CBD area have become concealed in the haze. If you live on the higher floors of your HDB block or condominium, it may seem even stuffier and hazier because hot air rises.

RELATED: The dangers of second-hand smoke on your infant

haze in Singapore

Current PSI reading, as of 12pm, 20th June 2013.

Preventive measures

  • The best preventive measure at this point in time is to refrain from bringing your infant or child outdoors.
  • Close the doors and windows in your house. It may seem extreme but this helps reduce the amount of haze inside the house. This can become a fire hazard so you should open your windows when you need to do some cooking.
  • Turn on the fan or air-conditioner at home. This can reduce the heat trapped in the flat.
  • Wear a mask when you’re outdoors. If you really need to bring your infant out of the house and he has been diagnosed with any respiratory conditions like asthma, remember to bring along his inhaler or medicine.
  • Monitor the PSI from time to time and pay attention to the latest news about the haze.
  • Refrain from engaging in any strenuous or outdoors activity. You need to stay healthy in order to take care of your infant, especially if he develops an asthmatic attack or any respiratory conditions.
  • Bring your infant to the doctor if he develops respiratory problems.

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