While Singapore has one of the highest life expectancies and some of the best healthcare facilities in the world, we still need to be fully prepared to face health issues when they arise. That applies not just to common global concerns such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also to illnesses that are more typical of this region. Find out about six such health concerns in Singapore, and what to be aware of.
#1 Respiratory conditions such as asthma
Asthma is a condition where airways are inflamed and become more sensitive than usual. The inflammation narrows the airways, making it harder to breathe. If left untreated, it can permanently damage the lungs or even be fatal. In Singapore, about one in five children suffer from asthma. The good news? Most kids outgrow it, with only five percent of adults continuing to have the condition.
While Singapore itself is not a significant producer of air pollution (though there are still plenty of cars on the road that don’t help the cause!), neighbouring countries Malaysia and Indonesia still practice slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as intensive logging and heavy industrial manufacturing. Both of these activities release tons of smoke and smog into the air. This air pollution causes “smog cough”, difficulty breathing, respiratory irritation and even asthma.
#2 Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)
This virus is very common in Singapore, particularly among children below five. HFMD causes small blisters, scabs, and/or rashes on the hands, feet, face and sometimes buttocks. Other symptoms include fever vomiting and ulcers in the mouth. The disease can occasionally led to serious complications such as heart and lung infections.
Living in saliva and mucus, the virus is typically spread by touch so good hygiene is the best way to prevent infection. Since it tends to spread quickly, it’s best to keep kids away from school or other places as soon as there’s even just one case detected.
#3 Skin damage
Singapore has high UV levels all year round due to its proximity to the equator, with the UV index (ranging from 0 to extreme levels of 11 and beyond) soaring as high as 9 in some months. The highest index recorded so far has been 15, in 2018. On a daily basis, UV levels are the highest between 11am and 3pm.
If you don’t use UV protection when you’re out and about in the sun, this can cause damage to your skin over time (moles, sunspots and, worst case scenario, skin cancer). Removal of moles and sunspots doesn’t come cheap in Singapore so be sure to take all the precautions you can. Make putting on sunscreen part of your daily skincare routine and wear a hat or carry an umbrella if needed.
#4 Dengue fever
You might have heard about dengue in the news, what’s it all about. Particularly common during the warmer months, the mosquito-borne virus often manifests itself through headaches, nausea, fever, joint and muscle aches, and can be fatal if not treated. See a doctor immediately if you feeling any of these do your best to prevent mosquito breeding around your home and use mosquito repellant especially in the early evenings.
#5 Colon cancer
This is the number one cancer in Singapore, with over 1,200 cases every year. The cancer develops slowly over a period of years and typically forms when a polyp on the inner lining mutates. Those who smoke, are over 50 years old and have a family history of rectal cancer are more prone to getting colorectal cancer.
Singapore has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations (The Straits Times), with one out of nine Singaporeans between 18 and 69 years old being affected by the disease.
This condition involves blood glucose levels remain persistently higher than normal due to an insufficient insulin in the body. It can be caused by lack of exercise, ageing and an unhealthy diet. If left untreated, it may lead to more serious conditions such as kidney failure, coronary heart disease, blindness and even the need for amputations.
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