Is the haze giving you sore throat, dry eyes or itchy skin? Doctors answer pressing questions about the effects of haze on our health.
Whenever the haze rolls around, you might find yourself sniffing or tearing more than usual. Sometimes, you might even start coughing, get a sore throat, and develop skin rashes. Doctors from respective fields shed light on how exactly the haze affects your throat, eyes and skin.
Haze and your throat
Dr Valerie Tay, ear nose and throat consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital explains how the haze affects your throat and respiratory tract.
Why does the haze give me a sore throat?
Haze contains irritants and particulate matter that can traumatise the lining of our air passages and throat, leading to inflammation. This usually causes your throat to feel sore. The irritation can also lead to frequent coughing, which can further aggravate the inflammation of your voice box, which gives rise to throat pain and a hoarse voice.
How does the haze affect my respiratory tract?
The PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) measures the concentration of particulate matter (PM) less than 10 microns in size, and PM 2.5 measures that of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in size. In general, the smaller the particulate matter, the easier it can penetrate your lungs. PM 2.5 is more dangerous as it can enter deep into the small sacs of your lungs and may even be able to cross into your bloodstream. It is also thought that PM 2.5 can trigger inflammation and oxidative damage, hence increasing the risk of plaque formation in the blood vessels.
Is breathing in the haze similar to breathing in second hand smoke?
The haze is an accumulation of dust, smoke, exhaust and other particulate matter in the atmosphere. While it’s also made up of fine particulate matter and harmful toxic chemicals, its components are not the same as that of second hand smoke from cigarettes.
Can long-term exposure to the haze cause further health complications?
Studies have shown that long-term exposure to the haze can cause both lung and heart disease. On the other hand, short-term exposure to the haze tends to cause more effects on our upper respiratory tract such as cough, throat irritation and runny nose.
Haze and your eyes
Dr Daphne Han, ophthalmologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, explains how the haze affects your eyes.
Why does the haze cause my eyes to sting and tear?
The tiny particulate matter – together with the polluting gases like sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere – come into contact with and irritate the outer layers of the eyes, which are called the conjunctiva. This causes an allergic reaction that gives rise to dilated conjunctiva blood vessels and makes the eyes look pink.
The eye may also become drier, and you may experience a sandy or gritty feeling in your eyes from both the dryness and the physical contact with the particulate matter and gases. If you also experience tearing or become extremely sensitive to light, it may point to a more serious condition like dry eyes or allergies.
Can long-term exposure to the haze cause permanent damage to my eyes?
In general, symptoms of eye irritation from long-term exposure to pollutants are not permanent, and stop once there’s no more exposure to the haze. In some rare cases, eyes may suffer from scarring if there’s been an exceptionally severe allergic reaction.
Haze and your skin
Dr Gavin Ong, dermatologist at Gleneagles Hospital, explains how the haze affects your skin.
Why does the haze cause my skin to feel irritated?
The dust particles themselves can be extremely drying to the skin and may also clog your pores. The accompanying chemicals can also give rise to an increase in skin irritations. Furthermore, the haze gives the impression that the amount of sunlight shining through is less than usual, when in fact the ambient ultraviolet (UV) light is still high. The combination of ambient UV rays and haze can accelerate skin ageing.
Do I need to change my skincare regime in light of the haze?
People with sensitive skin may require more frequent washing to remove the build-up of dust particles and chemicals on the skin. Pick a non-drying skin cleanser to prevent your skin from getting stripped of moisture. After cleansing, use a good moisturiser that can enhance skin repair and renewal. Topical antioxidants are also very helpful in reducing damage from all the free radicals generated by the haze and environment.