Haze – What You Must Do: Every year like clockwork, Malaysia & Singapore bummed by the suffocating haze surrounding the city. Scratchy throat, red eyes, and breathing problems are aplenty, while those with asthma can only suffer in silence.
However, the aforementioned are ‘only’ minor health issues; the real threats including lung diseases that haunt those exposed by haze. It is normal to feel angry and annoyed at this man-made phenomena, especially when the country suffers as a result of burning from somewhere else – with not much that we can do about. Dr Simon MSH explains what we must do during the HAZE to avoid hazardous effect of it on our health. Please watch the video for details:
1. Do I need to wear a N95 mask?
- N95 masks are not needed for short exposure, like commuting from home to school or work, travel from bus-stop to shopping mall. N95 masks are also not needed in an indoor environment.
- A healthy person who has to be outdoors for several hours when the air quality is in the hazardous range (PSI >300) may reduce exposure by wearing a N95 mask.
2. What about vulnerable groups of people? Should they wear masks to protect themselves?
- The best form of protection for people with chronic lung or heart disease, elderly, and pregnant women is to avoid or minimize outdoor activity when the air quality is unhealthy (PSI > 200). If they have to be outdoors for several hours, they may reduce exposure by wearing a N95 mask.
- You should take a break from using a N95 mask if you feel uncomfortable. Elderly, pregnant women and people with severe lung or heart problems who have difficulty breathing at rest or on exertion should consult their doctor as to whether they should use the N95 mask.
- Women in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy may already have reduced lung volumes or breathing issues. They should stop using a N95 mask if they feel uncomfortable.
3. Is the N95 mask an adequate protection against haze? Does it protect against PM2.5?
N95 masks work only if there is a good fit with the face of the wearer. This way, most of the air that the wearer breathes in has to go through the filter and not through the gaps between the mask and the wearer’s face. Haze can contain fine particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5), and studies have shown that N95 masks do provide good protection against particle pollutants as they are at least 95% efficient against fine particles that are about 0.1 – 0.3 microns.