Protect Yourself from Haze

The air quality in Delhi is at “severe” category on Tuesday morning 11:00AM, with the Central Pollution Control Board recording 464 at Anand Vihar on its index. This was slightly better than Monday afternoon, when the air quality deteriorated to 390. An air quality index higher than 400 is classified as “severe”. On Monday, the air pollution in Delhi had average index value on Mondaty was around 375-400.

This decline in air quality could be a result of a fall in temperatures and higher moisture in the air because of Cyclone Ockhi in the Western India.

Effects of Poor Air Quality:

Depending on how sensitive you are, the severity of the haze and the time of exposure, you may experience the following short-term adverse effects:

  • Irritated eyes, watering eyes, and/or conjunctivitis (a type of eye inflammation);
  • Running nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, and/or post-nasal drip;
  • Throat irritation, dry throat, sore throat and/or coughing;
  • Headache, dizziness and/or fatigue;
  • Decreased lung function, depressed respiratory immune defenses, chest pain, and/or bronchitis (lung inflammation);
  • Diarrhea and/or stomach upset, if drinking water sources are contaminated by dense haze and the water is consumed without further treatment;
  • Anxiety, stress and/or depression-like symptoms such as insomnia, feelings of helplessness, loss of interest in daily activities and irritability.

These symptoms are usually mild and will subside when you stay indoor and limit your exposure to haze.

However, in susceptible individuals and those suffering from chronic disease, especially respiratory and heart disease (e.g. coronary artery disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), their condition may be worsened by haze. They are more likely to experience more severe haze-related effects than healthy people.

How to Protect Yourself from Haze

Pay attention to local air quality updates. Recommended precautions you should take will usually be given in the form of advisories based on the latest air condition. So it is recommended that you keep track of the latest air quality update regularly. Here are some websites to check for the following countries:

Avoid outdoor activities, especially outdoor sports. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those suffering from chronic illnesses, especially heart and respiratory disease, should remain indoors when haze hits unhealthy levels. Healthy adults should avoid unnecessary outdoor activities. If you must exercise outdoor, avoid exercising in highly congested areas near busy roads and freeways, particularly during rush hours.

Close all windows, doors and any openings that may allow haze to enter your home and office. Turn on the air conditioner if you have one. Note: If the weather is unusually warm, it can become dangerous if you stay indoor with no fresh air intake and no air conditioner. In this case, seek alternative shelter.

Use an air purifier to keep the particulate levels low. Choose an air purifier that is suitable for the size and type of your home. Avoid air cleaners that generate ozone as they may generate more air pollutants. If you have multiple rooms, each room may need to be equipped with one air purifier to ensure the air is cleaned efficiently. Regularly replace the filters in the air purifier according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Keep air conditioner in tip-top working condition with regular cleaning and servicing. Fine particles can enter an air-conditioned building through the fresh air intake as well as any openings and gaps.

If you are staying in a building with a central air conditioning system, install an air cleaning device. This helps to reduce the amount of air contaminants that may be circulating in the building.

Take your medication regularly if you are suffering from an existing disease, especially heart disease and respiratory disease. If you feel breathless at any point in time, seek medical attention immediately.

Drink more water and increase the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. They help the body to flush out toxins absorbed through the skin and lungs, and improve the immune system. Taking more anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables also help to reduce inflammation that may be triggered by harmful fine particles in the air. Cut down on alcohol and coffee as they promote fluid loss and may leach nutrients from the body.

Limit or avoid smoking indoor and the use of gas stove, wood fireplace, candles, incense and anything that burns and emits smoke. In an enclosed area, smoke, gases and pollutants emitted from burning sources are trapped indoor and can build up to hazardous level if they continue to burn for an extended period of time.

Avoid driving if visibility is bad. When visibility is severely limited by the haze, avoid driving and use the public transport if you really need to get around. If you cannot avoid driving, do not speed, and drive at a speed that suits the road conditions. Roll up all the windows, turn on the headlight and avoid changing lanes, passing and crossing traffic. Increase your following distance and stay alert.

Under severe haze condition, wear a respirator if you must go outside. Respirators work better than surgical masks as they seal better and restrict more polluted air from entering the nose and mouth. They also come with the right filter to remove fine particles found in a haze. If you stayed indoor, but still experience haze-related conditions, it may be necessary to use respirators indoor as well.