The haze has been a huge problem for us over the years and it doesn’t seem to get better. Air pollutants can cause terrible health problems and affect our bodies especially babies and the elderly in numerous ways.
- NOSE – when inhaling polluted air, particles and chemicals irritate the nose which causes the mucus to flush out these particles. The more mucus produced, our nasal passage ways becomes blocked and the nose swells. This reaction is more intense to those who have allergies.
- AIRWAYS/LUNGS – The particles inhaled may inflame the airways as they travel down into the lungs causing the lungs to also be inflamed. The airways and lungs then produce phlegm to try get rid of these particles causing the airways to spasm to provoke a cough to discharge the particles and phlegm.
- SKIN – Those whom suffer from eczema may find it very itchy and inflamed. Using moisturiser 3-4 times a day can help protect the skin.
- EYES – These hazardous particles can cause burning sensations, irritate the eyes causing them to tear to lean itself and also inflames the eyes causing conjunctiva. During times like these, avoid wearing contact lenses. Use preservative-free lubricants every hour or so to remove allergens.
- HEART – When the nose and airways are inflamed, the body reacts under pressure and the heart starts pumping faster. The body also releases chemicals which make blood clot more easily. High blood pressure and the formation of blood clots can cause a heat attack, stroke or heart failure
For babies who are in general good health, the effects of the haze are usually mild and can be treated pretty easily.
- The haze may irritate baby’s nose, throat, airways, skin and eyes.
- Some babies may develop skin rashes.
- Your baby may experience sneezing, a runny nose, eye irritation, and dry throat and cough.
If your baby has a history of respiratory problems, sinusitis and/or skin allergies, she may be more vulnerable during the haze period. For example, if your baby has asthma, the symptoms may be more severe than usual.
In all cases, if air quality reaches critical levels, fine particles found in the haze can also penetrate deep into baby’s lungs.
Here are a few points on how to protect yourself and your children from the haze.
The best thing you can do to protect your baby is to keep her at home. Keep all doors and windows shut. Many families in Malaysia have invested in air cleaners or purifiers to improve indoor air quality. Others use a humidifier to dampen down the particulates; the additional moisture can also help reduce respiratory irritation.
You could play some fun indoor games with your baby or toddler so you both wont get cabin fever.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect your baby’s health. As long as she’s breastfeeding, she’s getting your antibodies and your natural immunities. Breastfed babies generally have milder symptoms when it comes to the common ailments such as colds and flu.
You can still breastfeed even when you’re feeling generally unwell or have a fever, just remember to mask up just in case.
Don’t smoke and stay away from smokers
Make sure you keep your baby and yourself well away from smokers. If you or your husband are smokers, there’s no time like the present to quit.
Practise good hygiene
Make sure everyone washes their hands and faces as soon as they step indoors. You may even want to change baby’s clothes or even give her a bath.
Now that the preventions have been summed out, we can never be too careful and at times, our children will be affected by the haze. Here are a few guidelines to treat health problems caused or made worse by the haze.
Mild sneezing, runny nose, dry throat and dry cough
Children under a year old should not be given cold or cough medication. Always check with your family doctor or paediatrician to find out what is suitable for your baby, according to his age and weight.
Ensure your baby gets plenty of rest and liquids, including breastmilk or formula, water, soups and juices.
Increase the amount of vitamin C-rich fresh fruit and vegetable juices gets. If you are breastfeeding, increase your intake of these foods, and your baby will benefit.
If he develops a fever, give him paracetamol suspension under a doctor’s direction.
Breathlessness or asthma
Asthma in most children is a reaction to a trigger, and the haze is always a likely suspect. The haze can make asthma worse, so if your baby is wheezing or breathless, consult your doctor immediately.
Apply a few drops of saline solution (available at most pharmacies) to help relieve irritation. Some mothers believe that a few drops of breastmilk are just as effective.
These tips can help you and your older children stay more comfortable during the haze.
- If you or your husband, or older children wear contact lenses, stop wearing them and go back to using glasses for a while until the haze subsides.
- Symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, dry throat and cough can be relieved with cold tablets or cough mixture. You can buy them at major pharmacies, but always consult your family doctor or paediatrician before giving medicine to your children.
- When the Air Pollution Index exceeds 150 (in the “Unhealthy” range), wear a mask. Masks that are certified grade N95 are able to keep out fine particulate matter. Change your mask when it becomes soiled or distorted. Standard surgical masks do not provide enough protection from haze particles. Those with respiratory ailments should consult their doctor before using a respirator mask.