Posted on Oct 09, 2015 by Travis Jones
The haze that Singapore has sadly become accustomed to this time of year is especially bad in 2015 thanks to the El Niño effect in the Pacific Ocean. Singaporeans city-wide are doing their best to cope with the nasty smog that fills the air, and many people have altered their personal habits to ensure that they don’t suffer ill health effects as a result of it. What about those among us that can’t protect themselves, though? Children, toddlers, infants, even unborn children need to be considered and well taken care of when it comes to the Singapore haze. Schools have even had to close this year due to fears over children breathing in the haze. So what health problems do children in Singapore face as a result of air pollution, and how can they best be protected? We answer these questions below.
Dangers in the womb
Even before a baby is born, air pollution can have a dramatic effect on their development. If a pregnant mother is exposed to heavy pollution and toxins, a number of serious issues can result in the unborn child. These include the baby being born prematurely or underweight. On top of this a whole host of other birth defects could take place as organs form at various points during the pregnancy.
Once born, a baby exposed to toxic air pollution in the womb is already more likely to die in infancy. There is also a greater risk that digestive, respiratory, or neurological problems develop later on in life. Finally, because pollution can affect development and growth in the womb, it should be noted that this can increase the risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Needless to say, it’s important for mothers-to-be to protect their unborn child, or they could possibly be dooming them to a life of health problems.
Early childhood dangers
Once born, a child can be directly affected by Singapore’s haze, and taking care of them is especially difficult because, pound for pound, children breathe in more air than adults. Combine this with the fact that children’s lungs, as well as the rest of their body, are still in development, and you’ve got potential for major health problems to develop. Especially since a child’s system for detoxifying the body is not yet efficient at removing toxins, and many of the modern methods for protecting people from small particulate matter in the air, such as the trusty N95 mask, are not regularly made for children and would be ineffective in protecting them.
Infants who are born premature or undersized due to the effects of pollution in utero are likely to be especially vulnerable to additional pollution.
Ill effects that can be seen in children exposed to excessive air pollution include allergic conjunctivitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma. For those children that already suffer from asthma, breathing in Singapore’s haze can further exacerbate the condition, as well as hurt and lung function; and brain development.
Look for the warning signs that your child might be being affected by the haze. Symptoms normally impact the eyes, lungs and nose, and include:
Shortened duration of exercise
Red, watery or itchy eyes
Protecting your child
So, what steps can be taken to protect children from the haze? Again, normal N95 masks are not designed for children, and regular surgical masks are not very effective against the extremely small PM2.5 sized matter that the haze is composed of, but there are still steps that can be taken to reduce the risk to your children.
Knowledge is power, so monitor air pollution levels (also known as PSI levels) in Singapore as closely as you can. If the PSI level gets to 100 or higher, it likely is not safe for children to be outdoors. If this is the case, keep them indoors as much as possible – only going outside for the purposes of transportation to school, etc. – and take additional precautions to make the air inside your home as healthy as possible. These precautions could include:
Cleaning air conditioner filters regularly
Purchasing a HEPA room air purifier
Washing bedding, stuffed animals and other fabrics regularly
Keeping plants to help filter air
On top of this, while they may be difficult to find in a shop, specially designed N95 masks for children can be found online. Short of obtaining one of these, the nature of Singapore’s haze makes it practically inescapable outdoors.
Realizing this, the final layer of protection that should be addressed for every child is comprehensive health insurance coverage that will provide benefits for all of the potential health issues above. Obtaining health insurance for a child early on in their life is important, as any conditions that they develop before insurance is purchased could be considered a pre-existing condition and might be excluded by most insurers.
At Pacific Prime Singapore, we have a number of knowledgeable insurance agents on hand that can find a plan that addresses all of your concerns relating to the healthcare of your children. Contact us today and we can answer any and all questions you may have about insurance for babies in Singapore and beyond. We can also provide you with a free quote and plan comparisons between multiple insurers.