Choked by neglect: Protect Yourself from the Haze

Choked by neglect: Protect Yourself from the Haze

Every year, between May and October, a thick haze hangs over parts of South-east Asia during the dry season when burning is used to clear Indonesian land for palm oil, paper plantations and other crops, sparking ire from regional neighbours.

In the latest outbreak, parts of Malaysia’s eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island have been blanketed by haze over the past few days.

If you’re worried during the haze period, this article will help address some of your concerns. There are precautions you can take to protect your children and yourself. 

Source- Bernama Infographics

How will the haze affect my baby’s health?

For babies who are in general good health, the effects of the haze are usually mild and can be treated easily.

  • The haze might 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 allergic skin conditions, she may be more vulnerable during the haze period. For example, if your baby has asthma, the symptoms may be more severe.  

In all cases, if air quality reaches critical levels, fine particles found in the haze can also penetrate deep into baby’s lungs.

What can I do to help my baby during the haze?

Here are a few guidelines that you can follow to treat health problems caused or made worse by the haze. 

Eye irritation
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.

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 milk, 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.

What can I do to protect my baby from the haze?

Stay indoors
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. 

We also have some great ideas for fun indoor games you can play with your baby or toddler.

Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect your baby’s health. As long as he’s breastfeeding, he’s getting your antibodies and your natural immunities. Breastfed babies generally have milder symptoms when it comes to common ailments such as colds and flu. 

You can still breastfeed even when you’re feeling generally unwell or have a fever.

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. Read more tips on quitting smoking.

Practice good hygiene
Make sure everyone washes their hands and faces as soon as they step indoors. You may even want to change the baby’s clothes or give him a bath.

How can I protect my older children from the haze?

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 when the haze is severe. Go back to using glasses for a spell.
  • 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. There are now child-size masks that are certified grade N95; these 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.