Thursday, October 22

Health Dept releases guidelines to help public cope with haze

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KUCHING: Sarawak is experiencing hazy conditions, with the Total Suspended Particulate Index hovering between ‘moderate’ and ‘unhealthy’ levels.

Reading of 51-100 is considered moderate, while 101-200 is unhealthy. Given the current dry spell, the hazy condition is expected to worsen. This has prompted the Health Department to issue a general advice to minimise health risks.

Its director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan said as the respiratory system was susceptible to the haze, common ailments that might arise were upper respiratory tract irritation, coughs, colds, asthma, and eye discomfort and redness.

“Refrain from engaging in strenuous outdoor activities such as jogging, running, mass exercises and games. These activities will increase the rate and depth of breaking, resulting in an increase in concentration of pollutants entering the airways.

“The public should cut down on outdoor activities during this period, particularly when the levels are unhealthy,” he said in a press statement. Dr Zulkifli said certain groups of people tend to be more susceptible to adverse health effects when the air is polluted.

Those who are particularly susceptible are asthmatics (increase in frequency and severity of symptoms and attacks), the elderly (increased risk of lung infections and decrease in lung function), infants and children, people with underlying lung and/or heart disease, and smokers.

He advised the public to stay indoors as much as possible.

“Visit your family physician, clinic, or hospital if suffering from acute respiratory infection, or if there were an increase in frequency of symptoms. Those in the high risk group are advised to take their medicine as prescribed.”

The public should also drink plenty of clean and boiled water, besides cleaning their hands and faces frequently, especially if they had gone outdoors.

“Reduce outdoor activities if the Air Pollution Index (API) is unhealthy. With dry weather, those with poor personal hygiene can get diarrhoea diseases. Therefore, it is important to observe and practise good personal hygiene at all times.

“Wash hands after using the toilet, wash hands before and after preparing food, wash hands before eating, and eat clean and properly cooked food.” He advised smokers to reduce or stop smoking during the haze, especially when the API is at an unhealthy level. They should abstain from smoking when children, elderly people, and sick people are around.

“Respiratory masks should be worn by all motorcyclists, people working outdoors, working in very dusty conditions, and those belonging to high risk groups who have to go outdoors.”

Dr Zulkifli also advised the public to stop open burning as it would worsen the situation.

“If you are advised to stay indoors, there are a number of steps you can take to keep the air inside your home as smoke free as possible, such as keeping windows and doors closed and switch on the air-conditioner, if you have one. Be sure to keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean.

“Other steps that can be taken include avoid using anything that burns including wood stoves, gas stoves and candles.”

For any enquiry, the state Health Department Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre can be reached at 082-443248 or fax 082-443098 or email to [email protected]