There are many things that you can look forward to each year in Singapore. From the annual F1 race to the lively New Year celebrations, there is always something fun to look forward to. Of course, from the months of June through October there is something that many of us in the city don’t look forward to: The annual haze created by illegal slash and burn farming techniques employed throughout the region leaves many of us with a bad taste in the back of our throats, or more severe health issues.
Pacific Prime Singapore share with us their top 5 tips on how you can stay healthy during the annual haze season.
1. Keep track of the haze with the NEA or Haze Tracker
Singapore’s National Environmental Agency functions as one of the best resources for tracking the haze. From their main haze site you can quickly see the current PSI readings across the city. For those new to Singapore, PSI is the Pollution Standards Index that is used to determine the currently quality of the air in the city based on a scale of 0 to 300+.
This index is incredibly important for parents, the elderly, and any person with a chronic disease of the lung or heart, as it allows us to judge whether there are any precautions we should take. In fact, the NEA website has a helpful PSI chart that explains the index readings and what precautions people with different conditions or in different age groups should take.
If you are keen to learn more about the haze and see where it is coming from, there is a cool website called Haze Tracker that was launched in 2015. This site provides some pretty in-depth information about the haze, including maps that track active fires and haze using various satellites. It also provides an interactive map of current PSI levels and lots of extra information on what you can do to help reduce it.
2. Look into an air filter/purifier
Believe it or not, in some situations the air pollution inside your house may be worse than outside. For example, this article from the SCMP in Hong Kong reports that the air inside may be up to 10 times worse than outside. Because of this, many doctors will recommend that families with young kids, the elderly or people with chronic disease invest in a quality air purifier.
These are always hot items this time of year, especially when the haze first arrives. It’s common to find many electronic stores running out of common models, but you should still be able to find a decent model at most appliance stores. For optimal air purification, most experts recommend looking for a device that offers HEPA filtration and a layer of active carbon, which can remove over 99% of harmful particles in the air.
3. A mask might be necessary
Let’s face it, staying inside with the air purifier on for a few months is not really feasible, which means you will need to spend time outside. This, in turn, will expose you to the pollutants in the air and the potential health problems they can bring. One of the best things you can do, especially if you are going to be outside for an extended period on days when the air pollution is ranked by the NEA as very unhealthy or hazardous, is to wear a mask.
Not just any mask though, one that is rated as N95. This rating means that it can block 95% of all particles in the air, including most viruses and particles in the haze. Wearing a surgical mask is often not enough, so it may be helpful to stock up on a few N95 masks. One thing to be aware of here, however, is that they only work when there is a tight seal around your mouth and nose. If there are any gaps, the masks are more or less useless. To learn more, check out the Ministry of Health’s FAQ on masks.
4. Be careful driving
Putting the haze aside for a minute, there are other contributors to the air pollution in the city, with one of the largest being all the vehicles on the road. Combine this ‘daily’ pollution with the haze and it could make the air quality even worse. In order to alleviate this, it could help to reduce the amount your drive while the haze is here.
At the very least, if you are going to be driving, it would be a good idea to ensure that your windows are always closed and if you have the air conditioning on, it would be better to set the air to circulate and not draw air from the outside.
5. Invest in a robust health insurance plan
One of the downsides of being an expat in Singapore is that you don’t have access to the national health system that helps to offset the cost of care for local residents. This means that hospital visits for expats can be considerably more expensive, especially if you go to popular private hospitals frequented by foreigners in Singapore. Should you find yourself or your family members bothered by the haze and in need of medical care, then it would be a good idea to ensure that you have quality health insurance.
A popular option with expats is an international health insurance plan, which covers not only the cost of care in almost all Singapore hospitals, but can also be used overseas. To learn more about these plans, why not contact Pacific Prime Singapore. They can help you find a plan that meets your coverage needs and budget.
This piece is presented by Pacific Prime Singapore