So it looks like the haze isn’t going to go away anytime soon. While haze seems pretty harmless by and large, clinics have reported higher number of respiratory diseases.
Since it’s a reality that we have to live with every couple of years, it’s good to be prepared.
Here are 7 things you can do to protect yourself from the occasional haze and how to keep it affordable:
1. Stock up on haze supplies well in advance
When the 2013 haze hit at record PSI levels of 401, many people held back on buying masks, thinking it was a one-off thing, a freak environmental catastrophe that wouldn’t repeat itself the next year. In 2015, we were back in the smog for close to a month.
Now, the haze is back again and depending on weather conditions, it might be here to stay for a while.
How to keep it affordable: With the knowledge that this isn’t a problem that is going to go away any time soon, it’s a good idea to stock up on anti-haze supplies, especially N95 masks. The current prices are $38 at NTUC FairPrice (for a box of 3M N95 Particular Respirator/8210) and $31.92 at RedMart (3M Disposable Particulate Respirator N95 Mask Small/8110S). Apparently the 8110S is more for people with “smaller faces”. You can get 3M N95 masks (model may differ) for slightly over $20 at Qoo10.sg too.
2. Get a HEPA air purifier if you have young children and family with asthma
If you suffer from haze-related ailments even after hiding in an air conditioned room all day, you might want to consider purchasing an air purifier. These gadgets can cost from $80 for brand-agnostic ones to over $1,000.
Most larger stores selling electrical appliances should carry them in some form or other, and you can also check online stores such as Lazada and Qoo10 for cheaper prices. Remember to get the ones with HEPA filters. You can compare prices by reading our handy air purifier price list.
How to keep it affordable: Whether you’re purchasing at small mom and pop stores or bigger chains like Harvey Norman, remember that the salesperson usually has a degree of discretion over the price of such big items, so bargain hard.
You can also use a credit card that rewards you for the right category. For retail spending, we recommend the American Express True Cashback Card, which gives you 5% cash rebates in the first three months of card membership, and 1.5% thereafter.
If you’re buying online, look for a credit card that rewards you for online shopping.
3. Monitor and prevent health conditions from worsening
Doctors usually report seeing a spike in the number of visitors during the haze season. If you’re unlucky enough to suffer from haze-related conditions like coughs, colds and eye irritation, monitor your condition closely and make sure you see a doctor before the problem worsens.
I had once landed myself in the hospital once for a corneal ulcer that I suspect was borne of haze-related eye irritation. And during that time, one of the doctors at the hospital mentioned that the A&E has been seeing a spike in the number of people being admitted during the haze season.
How to make it more affordable: Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. Making the effort to keep yourself healthy all year round can help to soften the blow when the haze descends. If you are generally well-hydrated and have a strong immune system, you might be less likely to be affected, saving yourself time and money spent going to the GP.
When the haze gets really bad, you can also start to look out for news of the Haze Subsidy Scheme. It’s currently not activated; but the scheme was designed to provide affordable healthcare to people with haze-related ailments. All children aged 18 and below, all elderly people aged 65 and above, as well as Singaporeans who earn $1,800 a month and below have to pay just $5 to $10 to see doctors at polyclinics and selected private clinics.
4. Eat well to boost your immunity
You already know how you feel the morning after drinking 10 bottles of beer and gorging on an upsized McDonald’s meal just before going to bed. Do that while breathing in the haze’s particulate matter every day and you’re weakening your immunity even more.
If you feel like you’re constantly down with a cold or are getting the flu more frequently during haze season, other than exercising indoors it’s a good idea to strengthen your immune system by consuming haze-busting foods like salmon, kiwi fruit and capsicum.
How to keep it affordable: Generally cooking and eating at home will save you a lot more than dining out already, but to take it a step further, try to replace meat with more fruits and vegetables. Instead of going out to restaurants and bars, have gatherings at dinner house parties.
5. Find indoor activities
The best thing to do when haze hits PSI levels of over 200 is to stay indoors. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to exercise. In fact, you should so that you can boost your immune system.
Now, no one’s asking you to take up Crossfit—but finding a simple workout routine that you can do even when the skies turn grey will give you an additional line of defense against the annual onslaught of haze. Those crazy people who are seen jogging “so long as the PSI is under 200” should probably move indoors too.
For restless children who need to go out, find indoor playgrounds where they can run in (relatively) clean air. There are free indoor playgrounds like PIP’s PLAYBox and The Artground at Goodman Arts Centre. Read about other free indoor playgrounds in our article 10 Completely Free Indoor Playgrounds in Singapore for Babies & Children! (Shopping Malls Included).
How to keep it affordable: The most obvious example of an indoor workout routine would be one you can do at a gym. You don’t need to sign up for an expensive gym membership either—the ActiveSG gyms cost only $2.50 per entry, while many condos have free gym facilities. Other indoor sports and fitness options include martial arts, yoga, zumba, dance and, yes, Crossfit.
6. Buffer for loss of earnings
While children all over Singapore will celebrate if they don’t have to go to school, their long-suffering parents won’t be quite as happy about having to brave the haze to get to work as usual. Still, things could be worse—if you’re a business owner, self-employed or in sales, the haze might have a direct impact on how much money you’re able to bring in.
For instance, if you’re an insurance agent whose livelihood depends largely on meeting people in the streets and setting up appointments with your clients, the haze could be a big deterrent. I’m pretty sure I would not brave the haze for a meeting with an insurance agent.
How to prevent loss of earnings: Plan ahead to put in place measures to stop the haze from affecting business. For instance, if you’re in the F&B line, equipping your interior with air purifiers and advertising the fact might encourage passers-by to take refuge on your premises. Insurance agents who need to run around to meet potential clients might offer to make house calls so the latter need not expose themselves to the haze.
7. Be smart with aircon usage
When the haze really gets bad in the range of above PSI 300, most people simply stay indoors. What else can you do if you don’t want sore throats and searing eyes, right? But staying at home with the air-conditioning on 24/7 will bite you in the butt in the form of a shocking electricity bill by the end of the month.
How to make it more affordable: If you will be turning on the aircon more, you can try to get more savings by switching from SP Services to an electricity retailer. You can enjoy at least 20% worth of electricity savings, which will make your bill size smaller.
Another way is to make use of the aircon timer. Instead of leaving the aircon running the entire night, what you can do is to set a 6-hour timer. The room will be sufficiently cold after 6 hours to last you until the morning.
To avoid turning on the aircon throughout the day, you can also while away the time at shopping malls, libraries, community centres and so on to stay cool.
How has the haze affected you? Tell us in the comments!
Image credit: acroamatic via Flickr