Combat haze

  • Health
  • Monday, 01 Jul 2013

An N95 mask and a box of cough lozenges - haze season essential kit in Kuching, Sarawak.

We may be seeing less haze, but the skies won’t remain clear until the root cause of this annual problem is addressed. While experts struggle with that, here’s a round-up of what we can do the next time smoke gets in our lungs.

THE haze seems to visit us with clockwork regularity during every dry season, so it makes sense to prepare ourselves to deal with it.

While the haze has cleared for now, it may return at any time as long as there is smoke from open burning and winds to carry it over to us.

Precautionary measures are crucial to safeguard our bodies, especially those with pre-existing health conditions. We spoke to some doctors and looked at our newspaper archives and trawled the web to come up with various simple tips and traditional remedies to deal with the haze.

Here are several tips one can apply to keep the haze at bay:

Boost immunity

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables (or take supplements) so ensure you have enough vitamin C and E (which work together to keep lungs healthy). Also look out for foods with Omega-3 oils.

Consume less dairy products, sugar, red meat, coffee and alcohol. Avoid foods high in saturated fats.

Steamy lung moisturisers

People of Kedah can visit this traditional Thai herbal steam bath at Dpehnimit Wat, at the foot of Gunung Keriang about 10km for Alor Star!

Breathing in some steam (which has cooled down a bit!) helps combat dryness in the atmosphere and keeps the respiratory system moist. Apart from herbs, people (but not kids under the age of two) can also add in some aromatic decongestants.

Air purifiers

Dr Leong Oon Keong, chest physician and president of Perak Chest Society, has advised people not to engage in any outdoor activities and even exercise because it will cause more air to get into the lungs where the haze will deposit more harmful particles. (The Star, June 27, 2013)

Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows closed and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and/or air purifiers. Use air conditioners on the “re-circulate” setting so outside air will not be sucked into the room.

For air purifiers, look for a machine with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter – only that would be able to trap the super-fine haze particles which can be as small as 3mm according to consultant allergist Prof Dr M. Yadav. (The Star, Aug 14, 2005.)

Vitamin A

This is available in liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes and spinach and helps protect your lungs, eyes and the oxygen-carrying capabilities of your bloodstream.

Use the mop

Put away the vacuum cleaners during this hazy period. They tend to stir up loose dirt and dust off the floors. Use a wet mop instead.



Add two tablespoon of vinegar in a glass of water and drink it. You can add some honey too. Vinegar dissolves the mucus in the throat and reduces inflammation.


Use masks

If you have to go outdoors, or if you have no air purifier indoors, use a mask to breathe. The best type is the N95 mask, says consultant cardiologist Tan Sri Dr Ridzwan Bakar, as it can filter out tiny haze particles.

Make sure it fits snugly and tightly on the face as it would defeat the purpose if air can enter from the sides.

These masks are a must for those with lung problems, reduced immunity or those who work outdoors for prolonged periods. If you have nothing else, breathe through a damp cloth over your mouth. (The Star, June 25, 2013)

Stop smoking

The air is polluted by the haze already – why send more hazardous particles into your lungs (and that of others too) by smoking?

See the doctor

People with asthma should check with their physicians regarding any changes in medication that may be needed to cope with the smoky conditions. Consider seeing a doctor if you develop persistent coughs for more than three or four days or if you develop conditions that are out of the norm, such as itchy, inflamed or irritated skin.

Follow the news

Keep yourself updated on daily air quality levels and air pollution forecasts in your area. This is so you are able to plan your daily activities accordingly.

Skin detox

If you experience dry, itchy and inflamed skin, try detoxing it. Rinse thoroughly with water and use a skin-appropriate toner to ensure your pores are cleansed thoroughly. If you are at work and unable to give your pores a good scrub, get a skin mist or moisturizer to help dissolve any surface impurities and recharge overwhelmed complexions.


Contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses and have developed an eye irritation, it is advisable to stop wearing them until your eyes have healed. Ensure your eyes are constantly hydrated as well and keep eye drops within easy reach. A dilute saline solution can also act as a natural tear supplement.

Related story:

Herbal help

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Health , Haze , Cure , Steps , 2013


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