Smell smoke in the air lately? It could be the haze. Caused by forest and land fires in neighbouring countries, haze season usually occurs between June to October, depending on the various weather conditions.
“The haze can affect our health because it contains a higher concentration of air pollutants, such as harmful gases and fine particles,” says Dr Katrina Heng, our paediatric doctor. “If the haze is severe, this may lead to increased respiratory tract symptoms or worsen existing health conditions.”
While we can’t control the haze and when it happens, we can take steps to manage our health to reduce its impact. Dr Katrina shares more about the haze, and how you can protect your child’s health when it’s haze season in Singapore.
Children below 6 are at higher risk of more serious haze symptoms.
The haze doesn’t affect all children equally. If you have younger kids, do look out for them a little more during haze periods in Singapore.
“Your child’s lungs are still developing until they’re about 6 years old,” says Dr Katrina. “During these early stages of growth, their air passages are smaller and their air sacs are less matured. With the haze, this may put them at higher risk of irritation and inflammation when they’re exposed to the air pollutants.”
Symptoms that you need to keep an eye out for include: phlegm and cough, as a result of the blocked passages in their lungs. If these symptoms persist over a prolonged period, it may progress into a more serious state.
“Additionally, if your little one starts developing a fever, do seek medical attention as soon as possible,” emphasises Dr Katrina.
Allergies and asthma may also flare up due to the haze.
Unfortunately, the haze may also have a more detrimental impact on children who have existing conditions, such as asthma or allergies. “Irritation and inflammation from the haze can end up triggering underlying asthma, allergies or other sensitivities in children,” says Dr Katrina.
“It’s good to do an early check in with your doctor on your child’s medication when the haze first starts,” advises Dr Katrina. “Your little one may need to step up their regular medication as a preventive measure to prevent any serious outcomes.”
A balanced diet can help them feel better.
As always, diet is an essential part in a healthy lifestyle — and it’s even more important to eat well when there’s haze in Singapore, so that your little one’s body continues staying strong.
“An easy way to build a healthy diet is to remember Go-Grow-Glow,” shares Dr Katrina. This means:
- Go: “Think of ‘Go’ foods of foods that give your child the energy to go about their activities. These are usually carbohydrates, such as brown rice or wholemeal bread.”
- Grow: “‘Grow’ foods support your little one’s growth by helping them to build their muscles. You can get these from both animal or plant protein.”
- Glow: “Lastly, ‘Glow’ foods keep them glowing. This consists of fruits and vegetables, which makes them healthy by keeping germs at bay.”
These components aren’t unique to just your child’s diet alone. Our children watch what we eat and model our eating behaviours, as parents. Incorporate these types of foods into your diet as well, to establish healthy eating habits in your family.
Find fun indoor alternatives.
The National Environmental Agency (NEA) tracks the severity of the haze in Singapore. When the air pollution reaches unhealthy levels, the NEA would issue a warning to let the public know that they should minimise outdoor activities.
“While going to the mall or maybe catching a movie may be good entertainment options, common public spaces will probably be crowded. Instead of joining the crowds, find alternatives that you can perhaps do at home,” shares Dr Katrina. “Why not try learning to play a new board game together, or even, challenging your little ones to a game of spelling bee?”
The haze can indeed be unpleasant — but you can also view it as an opportunity to try out new activities with your little ones. You may even discover new interests together or uncover a new hidden talent!
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