Here are 8 tips and recommendations to help fathers be aware of and keep you and your family protected from the haze.
Singapore recently experienced an ‘unhealthy PSI’ due to heightened levels of ozone in February 2021. The last time the country had an ‘unhealthy PSI’ was in November 2019 due to elevated PM2.5 levels. The high ozone levels had raised the affected the air quality levels with some observers noting a ‘burning smell’ and haze.
NEA shared in a statement to CNA that “The maximum ambient temperature on Feb 27 of 35.3 degrees Celsius was the highest recorded in 2021 for the north region. This coupled with the high UV levels, could have contributed to the elevated ozone levels, reaching the unhealthy range.”
We share eight tips and recommendations about understanding what is the haze, how to be aware of hazy days and on keeping your family protected from the haze.
#1 It is useful for fathers to understand how air quality and PSI is measured in Singapore.
Singapore uses the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) as a gauge of air quality. This index calculates the average concentration levels of six air pollutants. These pollutants are particulate matter, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.
Each pollutant’s average concentration levels are converted into a pollutant sub-index. The highest recorded sub-index becomes the PSI value for that hour.
For example, if the haze is caused by forest fires in the region, the dominant pollutant is likely PM2.5. However, in the recent February incident, the dominant pollutant was ozone.
#2 Reading air quality and PSI levels
Air quality is considered good when the PSI is 50 or below; moderate when it is between 51 and 100; and unhealthy when it goes above 101.
#3 Checking on the air quality and PSI levels
Fathers can check NEA’s dedicated haze website at https://www.haze.gov.sg/. The website shows both hourly and 24-hour air quality readings as well as a summary about hotspots in the region.
Separately, the World Air Quality Index project is a non-profit project that has set up a dashboard to provide air quality information internationally. Their website is accessible at https://aqicn.org/city/singapore/central/.
#4 Deciding about whether to do outdoor activities during the haze
The NEA website also provides an official health advisory available for download.
Referencing the health advisory, normal activities for all groups can go ahead when the air quality is good or moderate.
When the air quality is unhealthy, healthy persons are urged to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, children and the elderly, should minimise or avoid such exertion.
Try doing your workout indoors with body weights or free weights, instead of heading outdoors to exercise or participate in sports. Aerobic activities – running, cycling, football – typically requires deep breathing which will result in persons inhaling the harmful pollutants.
Vulnerable groups, especially those with pre-existing chronic heart or lung conditions would be better off staying indoors.
Perhaps some caution can come into play. Excessive exposure to the fine pollutant particles can increase the risk of developing viral or bacteria infections.
If the air quality reaches ‘very unhealthy levels’, healthy persons are asked to avoid exertion while vulnerable groups should minimise or avoid being outdoors.
#5 Stay indoors and enjoy more quality ‘together’ time
During periods of haze, it would be recommended to stay indoors as much as possible.
Shut the windows. Turn on an air purifier (replace the air filters as needed) to remove pollutants in the air. Switch on the air conditioner if possible.
Children might find themselves getting bored; and this is a great time to introduce them to different age-dependent activities such as board games, painting, or even consider increasing their screen time with ‘edutainment’-type shows.
#6 Wear a mask if you or a family member has to go outdoors
Because of the pandemic, many of us are familiar and have made it a habit to leave our homes wearing a mask. Unfortunately, cloth, paper or surgical masks do not offer adequate protection against the smaller pollutant particles.
Fathers can consider buying a respiratory mask such as the N95 mask that can help to filter airborne particles as well as protect wearers from inhaling these particles. These masks are available at many pharmacies and supermarkets.
Some best practice tips after a year of wearing masks during the pandemic
- Keep a spare mask in the bag or your children’s bags
- Test and ensure that the mask is a good fit for children, especially younger kids
- Use a facial tissue inside the mask to absorb some of the moisture from breathing and reduce glass fog
- Use skin moisturiser, especially in the areas that frequently experience irritation when wearing a mask
- For kids that are not used to wearing a mask, create a ‘mask cap’ by sewing buttons to the sides of the cap and attaching the ear loops to the buttons (instead of the ear).
#7 Drink more water and eat more fibre
Most people affected by the haze tend to show symptoms such as irritated throat, sore throats, coughing or runny noses. Drink more water can help keep the throat moist and flush away any toxins absorbed through lungs and skin.
Consume more fruit and vegetables for vitamin A, vitamin C and fibre. These nutrients can help protect your eyes and lungs, promote lung tissue health and minimise catching the flu bug. Foods with vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach; foods with vitamin C include oranges, kiwis and broccoli.
#8 Handle the symptoms with medication
After being impacted by the haze, some people or children might have effects such as throat irritation, eye irritation, runny nose, and headaches. Taking medication such as cough syrup, lozenges or painkillers can help provide some relief. It is best to consult a doctor, and walk through the symptoms to determine the cause.