The annual threat to the health of Malaysians has returned once again: The Haze. It is set to fill the skies and send the level of air pollution sky-rocketing!
For Malaysians, this has been a problem for a very long time, especially since Malaysia is very close to the source of the problem: Indonesia, due to it’s “slash and burn” farming practices and the burning of carbon-rich decaying matter.
No matter how healthy you are, The Haze is a threat. If you have a weakened immune system, have a weak body, or suffer from a respiratory problem, you are at an even greater risk.
Swollen eyes, nose and throat? Check.
Dizziness, headaches, or shallow breathing? Check.
Heart, lung, or sinus condition? Check.
Congratulations! Life is going to be miserable.
In particular for pregnant women, young children and the elderly, The Haze is a serious threat.
To avoid a hazing haze experience, I have compiled a list drawn from the experiences of extended members of my family for your benefit. So here we go:
1. Don’t. Go. Outside.
With the outside air quality generally at an all-time low, it’s simply not suitable for breathing.
Stay indoors and avoid all the outdoor activities and events that you can. Of course, you still have to get to work somehow, but don’t go for a walk in the park or an outdoor tennis match lah.
Outdoor activities – as in exercise – will cause you to take faster and deeper breaths. That means breathing in even more haze particles.
The pollutants will kacau your eyes, nose and throat leading to coughing, sneezing, itchiness and tearing up for just about everyone caught out in heavy haze.
If you have a heart or respiratory condition, this could even mean a trip to the hospital.
2. Service your Air Cons, Air Purifiers – Keep those Filters Clean!
Most of us have air conditioners in our homes. Some of us have both aircons and air purifiers as well.
The aircon filters help clean the air in your home by trapping airborne dirt.
Those particles include viruses, bacteria, dust, dust mites, mold, bad gases, and a lot more besides.
Having dirty filters reduces the effectiveness of your aircon, reduces energy efficiency, and ultimately fails to keep pollutants at bay.
At home, my filters get cleaned weekly, and I am always amazed by just how much junk that they keep out of my lungs.
The greatest pleasure I have is coming home and getting a lungful of clean and cool air that doesn’t make my throat itch.
So top tip: Get the aircons serviced annually. If your usage is particularly high, you should double up and service them twice a year.
Keep these machines in good working shape so they won’t break down when you need them most. After all, they help you breathe easier during The Haze.
3. Stay Hydrated
The human body is literally 60% water. If you are feeling thirsty, you’ve already lost 1% of that vital 60%.
In this climate, you may find yourself getting dry mouth, which can progress to a scratchy throat, then tiredness, dizziness, and migraines soon after.
While eight glasses of water a day is normally enough, you better up that intake during The Haze. Aim for ten to twelve glasses of water.
That extra water will be used to keep your body hydrated, oxygenated and flush out toxins via your kidneys.
Consider upping your fruit intake as well. Boost your immune system with watermelon, oranges, grapefruit and melons.
These are good sources of water, various vitamins, and trace minerals that will help your body during The Haze.
4. Moisturize your Skin
Take care of your skin during The Haze because it protects…well…pretty much the rest of you entirely.
The dirt particles in The Haze include sulphur, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide (to list a few).
All of these can irritate the skin, clog pores and cause premature skin ageing. If you have sensitive skin or eczema, you are going to have a bad time.
Keeping your skin hydrated means first keeping the grease and dirt at bay. Do not use chemicals or drying soaps.
Use a non-oil-based makeup remover to get the dirt off and clean your skin before you moisturize.
Clean and moisturize after too much time spent outdoors (when you get to the office or that mandatory work-related outdoor team building activity).
5. Wear the Right Mask: N95, not a Surgical Mask.
When getting a mask, please get yourself an N95 respirator mask. NOT a surgical mask. The surgical mask will give very little protection because of its poor fit to your face.
The N95 is a form-fitting mask that maximizes your protection from the tiny airborne pollutants that make up The Haze itself.
N95 masks can be reused, but only up to a point. So make sure to grab a few of them and keep them in dry places until needed.
I actually have these in my car, office and house at all times, for whenever The Haze makes an annoying appearance.
Hopefully, you won’t have to make extensive use of these when The Haze is around. You shouldn’t be outdoors that much anyway!
6. Visit the Doctor when you experience Flu-like Symptoms.
If you’ve come this far, you’ve cleaned and serviced the air-cons, are staying indoors, eating right and staying hydrated.
Most of us will overlook the minor symptoms of illness, or self-medicate when we get a runny nose.
When I’d get a bit of a headache or that mild fever, I’d chase it away with two Panadol, a bottle of 100 Plus and a solid night’s sleep.
During Haze season, please do not make this mistake.
Amid your usual battery of flu-like symptoms, the moment you start feeling respiratory symptoms or other health issues: Get to the Doctor!
You’d be amazed how fast ‘the common flu’ becomes a three-day hospital stay. I have learnt this from a personal experience that was quite painful.
Until somebody takes on The Haze at its source, we’re going to have to deal with it and its health risks.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself during The Haze!
For more articles on your health, read I Was a Smoker for 20 Years. Here are 5 Ways Which Helped Me Quit and You’re Not Exercising for These 4 Reasons (And Why You Really Should).