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


Skip Navigation LinksHealth Xchange > News
  2013 2015   Dec 2015 | Nov 2015 | Oct 2015 | Sep 2015 | Aug 2015 | Jul 2015 | Jun 2015 | May 2015 | Apr 2015 | Mar 2015 | Feb 2015 | Jan 2015 |
  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 |
  Health Policy and Announcements | Diseases and Outbreaks
  Medical Research | New Treatments and Technology
  Singapore   SingHealth | Health Promotion Board | Ministry of Health | Asiaone
  International   World Health Organization | Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
  News Article  

More ailments during Hungry Ghost Festival

  Friday, 27 l 08 l 2010 Source:  My Paper  
By: Joy Fang

THE Hungry Ghost Festival usually means getai performances and auctions but, for some, it also marks the start of visits to the doctor.

Doctors my paper spoke to said they have seen a greater number of patients during this period seeking treatment for ailments such as asthma, eye irritation, and nasal and skin allergies.
During the month-long festival – which lasts till Sept 7 – the Chinese pay respects to their dead relatives by burning joss sticks and incense paper.

Dr Clarence Yeo from the Killiney Family and Wellness Clinic in Killiney Road said he has seen roughly 20 per cent more patients suffering from such symptoms since the festival began on Aug 10.

Dr Madeleine Chew, the managing director of mobile medical-care service MW Medical, said she has seen 10 to 15 per cent more patients coming down with conjunctivitis and viral illnesses since the start of the festival.

As for Dr Alvin Wong of Well Family Clinic and Surgery in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, he saw about 10 per cent more patients recently. He added that many of them complain about shortness of breath due to pre-existing conditions such as asthma or other lung diseases.

Still, Dr Wong said that his “patients actually pinpoint the festival as the cause of the problem”.

“They tell me that when they pass by a place where offerings are being burnt, they can feel their chests constricting, causing them to use an inhaler more frequently,” he said.

Dr Yeo said it is not unusual for doctors to see such symptoms arising from the burning of joss sticks and incense paper.

However, he told my paper that it is difficult to link the symptoms directly to the festival, as other factors, such as a patient’s susceptibility to illnesses, need to be considered.

Make-up artist Vannessa Barker, 27, said the smoke and ash in the air this year led to a flare up of asthma and eczema.

She complained of itchy skin and chest tightness, and said: “I haven’t used my inhaler in years but I had to use it this time round.”

She added that many people had left their food offerings and burnt paper all over the floor at the void deck of her Housing Board block in Hougang.

“It’s really bad for the environment... Right now, there’s nothing much I can do except to close the windows,” she said.

Banking executive Melissa Ng, 25, said she has been hit by bouts of cold and pimple outbreaks since the festival began.

“I find myself sneezing repeatedly throughout the day because I breathe in all the ash flying in the air. It aggravates my sinus problem and makes me feel so uncomfortable,” she said.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on its website that the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) – a measurement of air quality – has remained largely constant.

The PSI stood at 28 on Aug 15, compared with a PSI of 23 two weeks prior.

Air quality is considered unhealthy when the PSI goes beyond 100.

Town councils provide drum cylinders or purpose-built concrete pits for residents to burn their offerings, but some people still regard the sharing of bins as a sign of disrespect to their ancestors.

A report in The Straits Times last year said that the NEA receives an average of 55 complaints a month from across the island about residents who burned their offerings in the open. During the Hungry Ghost Festival last year, more than 100 such complaints were received.

When asked how people can cope with the ailments, Dr Yeo advised them to avoid the areas of burning as much as possible.

“Patients can also turn on the air-conditioning at home or buy air purifiers,” he said.

Dr Chew suggested the use of medicines such as over-the counter antihistamines to help minimise allergic reactions.

Surgical masks do not really help, Dr Wong noted, as they do not filter out the particles causing the ailments. Those with respiratory problems should use an N95 respirator mask, he said.

If you are suffering from eye irritation, take along saline eyedrops so that you can periodically rinse particles from your eyes, he added.

  Ask the Specialists - Free Doctor Q&A  
    Diabetes Management
Diabetes management starts with awareness, so take this opportunity to ask our doctor your most pressing questions on taking care of yourself.
    Previous Q&As
Check out our archive for all our previous doctor's Q&As!
*Latest Update: Speech and Language Problems in Children, Gynaecological Cancers: Cervical and Ovarian Cancers, Colorectal Problems, Screening, Risks & Symptoms
e-Appointment Online
Health Buddy App