Should Your Child Wear a Haze Mask?

In Forest, Haze
© Xcalibrephoto / WWF-Singapore

You might have seen us recently giving out N95 masks in the streets with the help of our campaign partners. Giving out the masks is an opportunity to meet and listen to Singaporeans and visitors to our country. One tourist told us he would not come back to Singapore again during the haze season. But when is haze season? If only it was so easy to predict.

As PSI crept into the high unhealthy levels last weekend  Orchard Road looked like it had been given the CGI treatment  like a scene from some apocalyptic movie but people were still happy to stroll, some with small children in pushchairs, most without masks.

So what pushes some people to wear a mask while others don’t? Does vanity play a part? Some of the people we spoke to said they were genuinely unconcerned  about haze unless PSI levels reached 200+.  Don’t know about you but we feel pretty grim when the PSI shifts even into the 100’s – dry lips, itchy eyes, sore nose, funny lumpy feeling in the throat – so we thought we would check it out with a doctor.  The GP we spoke to said 100-200 is a bit of a grey zone, how you react all depends on much your body can tolerate. Not sure we want to put our bodies to the test, how about you?

PSI-reading-NEA
credits: NEA

Going back to Orchard Road and the children in strollers, outside in PSI of upward of 150. Would it be healthier for them to wear masks?  Quick look at the MOH website – although plenty of advice on masks and mask-wearing there is nothing specifically about children. So we consulted a top pediatrician who treats many children with allergies and severe reactions to the haze.   We asked him if children should wear masks. No, was his answer. Here’s the reason, in order to effectively cut out air pollution particles masks need to fit well, snug around the nose and mouth. Right now there is no sizing for children, i.e. age 1-3 years or 4-6 years.  Also children do not react well to having something clamped on their faces and tend to fidget with the mask pulling it out of place.  It seems masks on children can sometimes do more harm than good because they lead to a false sense of security and parents may stay outside longer than they would without the mask, when in fact the truth is the mask is most likely not offering your child adequate protection against the haze because it does not fit well enough. Deep inhale of breath, did you follow that?

Our friendly pediatrician says when PSI is over 100 it is best to keep children indoors with fans and air cons on, if you have them.  No choice then, while the haze lasts, we are stuck indoors with bored children – welcome to the #hazecraze club.  We think it’s definitely time to #XtheHaze.

 

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