New Users Registration  |  Useful Links  |  FAQ  |  Site Map 
 
Go Search

 

Skip Navigation LinksHealth Xchange > News
  News  
  Categories  
     
  Chronology  
 
  2013 2014   Dec 2014 | Nov 2014 | Oct 2014 | Sep 2014 | Aug 2014 | Jul 2014 | Jun 2014 | May 2014 | Apr 2014 | Mar 2014 | Feb 2014 | Jan 2014 |
  2013   Dec 2013 | Nov 2013 | Oct 2013 | Sep 2013 | Aug 2013 | Jul 2013 | Jun 2013 | May 2013 | Apr 2013 | Mar 2013 | Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 |
  2012   Dec 2012 | Nov 2012 | Oct 2012 | Sep 2012 | Aug 2012 | Jul 2012Jun 2012May 2012Apr 2012Mar 2012 | Feb 2012 | Jan 2012 |
  2011   Dec 2011Nov 2011Oct 2011 | Sep 2011 | Aug 2011Jul 2011Jun 2011 | May 2011 | Apr 2011 | Mar 2011 | Feb 2011 | Jan 2011 |
  2010   Dec 2010 | Nov 2010 | Oct 2010 | Sep 2010 | Aug 2010 | Jul 2010 | Jun 2010 | May 2010 | Apr 2010 | Mar 2010 | Feb 2010 | Jan 2010 |
  2009   Dec 2009 | Nov 2009 | Oct 2009 | Sep 2009 | Aug 2009 |
 
     
  Topic  
 
  Health Policy and Announcements | Diseases and Outbreaks
  Medical Research | New Treatments and Technology
   
 
     
  RSS  
 
  Singapore   SingHealth | Health Promotion Board | Ministry of Health | Asiaone
  International   World Health Organization | Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
       
 
     
  News Article  
 

Haze Hazard

 
  Thursday, 28 l 10 l 2010 Source:  Mind Your Body; The Straits Times   
By: Lee Hui Chieh
     
 

Air pollutants can trigger underlying health conditions and affect the body in numerous ways. LEE HUI CHIEH reports

haze-don-mask

After the haze hit Singapore in 1994, Ms Edna Chia was diagnosed with asthma – at the age of 47. She recalled: “I didn’t have asthma in my childhood. I had not even heard of it.” It started with a cough, which persisted for months, and worsened into wheezing and breathing difficulties. When she was finally diagnosed with asthma, she was
in hospital for about 10 days. She now takes medication daily.

Ms Chia, now 63, a sales executive at a piano shop, said: “This is old-age asthma that I have to take to the grave.” Though it is unlikely that the haze caused her asthma, it probably triggered a latent genetic predisposition, said her doctor, Dr Chan Tiong Beng, a consultant respiratory physician at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

This is the hidden danger for such people from haze – a mixture of suspended particles, water vapour, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other chemicals. Though intermittent haze in Singapore is unlikely to be hazardous to healthy people, it can aggravate underlying conditions. Last week, smoke drifting here from burning forests in Indonesia pushed air quality to over 100 points on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), signalling unhealthy air.

So how does haze hurt the body?

Nose
During inhalation, particles and chemicals irritate the nose, which secretes mucus to flush out the particles. As more mucus is produced, the nasal passage becomes blocked and the nose swells. The reaction is magnified in
people who have allergic rhinitis, said Dr Kenny Pang, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon who runs a clinic at the Paragon. If the symptoms become too severe, they can take antihistamines, he said.

Airways and lungs
The particles may inflame the airways and the lungs as they travel downwards. The airways and lungs produce phlegm to try to get rid of the particles. The airways spasm to provoke a cough to expel the foreign matter. As phlegm narrows the
airways, more phlegm is produced, creating a vicious circle, said Dr Chan. Even people without chronic respiratory problems can suffer from breathlessness, he said.

Children are more vulnerable as they breathe faster, have a higher metabolic rate and have lungs that are still developing, said Dr Ong Thun How, a consultant at Singapore General Hospital’s respiratory and critical care medicine department.

The elderly and pregnant women should also take extra care, because their lungs tend to have less capacity, he said. Worst-hit are those with asthma and chronic lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They should keep to their daily control medication and increase the dose, if needed, according to an action plan drawn up earlier with their doctors, said Dr Gerald Chua, head of the department of medicine at the Jurong Health Services-run Alexandra Hospital. They should make sure they have an adequate supply of rescue medication in case of an attack, he said.

Heart
With the nose and airways inflamed, the body is under stress and the heart pumps faster, increasing the blood pressure. The body also releases chemicals that make blood clot more easily. Higher blood pressure and the formation of blood clots can cause a heart attack, stroke or heart failure in those who have coronary heart disease or whose hearts are already beginning to fail, said Dr Chuang Hsuan-Hung, a cardiologist from Gleneagles Medical Centre.

Eyes
The particles and chemicals can cause burning sensations, irritate the eye into tearing to clean itself and inflame the
conjunctiva, the surface layer on the white of the eyeball. Those with a history of dry, sensitive eyes and allergic conjunctivitis are most at risk, said Associate Professor Chee Soon Phaik, who heads Singapore National Eye Centre’s ocular inflammation and immunology service and cataract service.

The inflammation of the conjunctiva worsens dry eyes and adds to existing inflammation from allergic conjunctivitis, she said. Avoid wearing contact lenses and put on wrap-around glasses. Use preservative-free lubricants every hour to remove allergens. Any eye swelling can be reduced by placing a warm towel over the eyes for a minute or two. If the symptoms worsen or become severe, see an ophthalmologist, who may prescribe medications such as
topical steroids.

Skin
The haze should have little effect on healthy skin, said Dr Steven Thng, consultant dermatologist at the National
Skin Centre. But those with eczema – “asthma of the skin” – may find it becoming itchy and inflamed, he said. Using moisturiser three to four times a day can help protect the skin.

General precautions
People with chronic diseases, especially serious ones such as heart and lung diseases, should stay indoors and avoid physical activity outdoors when the PSI hits about 80, doctors advised. Healthy people should do so when the PSI exceeds 100 and crosses into the unhealthy range, they said. If they have to go out, they may wish to wear surgical masks, but these may not block fine particles which can still wreak havoc on the body.

Ms Chia is on her guard against the potential health threat from the current haze. She has increased the dosage of her daily control medication and will stock up on her rescue medication soon. She said of her asthma: “It has happened, so you just have to learn how to live with it.”

     
 Ask The Specialists (1st - 31st Oct)
     
Am I suffering from depression?
Feel that you can't stop worrying, and are always anxious? Or can't sleep and cry a lot? You may be suffering from depression. Ask our Specialist all about depression now!
     
  Can having a baby lead to depression?
A woman can suffer from depression during and after her pregnancy. You may be depressed and not know it. Here's your chance to find out if you are at risk, and learn ways to cope with it.
     
 
 Promotion of the Month
 
 
Top Travel Tales and Tips Contest
Share your best travel experiences and top 2 entries will receive a S$400 travel voucher each from the HealthXchange team. Click here
 for more details.
 
 Catch up with Health Xchange
 
  facebook   newsletter  
 
  twitter