The Star, 5 Mar 2014
SOME doctors have seen an increase in the number of patients with respiratory illnesses despite the public is taking precautionary measures during the haze.
General practitioner and occupational health physician Dr Harjit Singh Gendeh said more patients with sinus, asthma and conjunctivitis were walking into his clinic in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.
“The haze in Shah Alam is quite bad. Yesterday and today, patients have been coming in non-stop,” Dr Harjit said.
He said a stream of people with flu were also treated at his clinic.
“They were suffering from sore throat, cough, itchy eyes and dry throats,” he said.
He said he observed a 15% to 20% increase in the number of patients since the haze started.
Dr Harjit advised the public to cut down on their activities outdoors, including exercise especially for children and elderly folk.
“I would also advise them to stay indoors as much as possible and to those who have asthma problems, they should have their inhalers at hand,” he said.
Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Yeo Sek Wee said he would normally receive 20 patients a day but was receiving about 25 patients daily now.
“Most of them come in with nose and lung problems such as asthma, blocked or runny noses,” he said.
He advised the public to drink more water, use a face mask when outdoors and use eye drops to soothe dry eyes.
Meanwhile, Brian Soong, who stays in Taman Desa, said he has been using an air purifier at home as he suffered from sinus problems.
“During hazy periods, my throat gets dry and I fall sick easily. So, having this at home helps me cope with the hazy condition,” said the 29-year-old.
Lawyer Janet Chai, 32, who trains outdoors with her dragon boat team called KL Barbarians, said they cancelled their land drill, which is a physical training session, yesterday.
“We cancelled the session as a precautionary measure as we do not want the team to fall sick or have any health difficulties from being outdoors,” said the team captain.
She said the team, which carries out land drills twice a week, had cut their sessions short since the return of the haze.
“However, we would caution members who have health problems against joining us,” she said.
The team’s coach, Lee Shih, said it was difficult for them to find an indoor location adequate for their land drills.
“I think we will have to keep cancelling our sessions if the haze continues or worsens,” he said.
On the other hand, some outdoor enthusiasts such as Fu Ken Ho, 31, said he would still be continuing his outdoor activities such as camping and motorbiking.
“The haze does not seem so bad presently. If it worsens, I will probably get a mask, but I am not sure if it really helps or just helps psychologically,” said Fu.
His friend, Marcus Wong, said he previously went through the bad weather with a damp cloth wrapped around the face to minimise exposure to the dust particles while out hiking.
Meanwhile, some local government authorities have begun distributing surgical masks to their employees working outdoors, such as enforcement personnel.
A spokesperson for Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) said they had distributed face masks to their enforcement officers.
“We have advised them to wear them at all times when outdoors especially when the air quality has dropped,” said the spokesperson.
It was also learnt that DBKL officers would be out patrolling to ensure that no open burning tookplace to prevent the air quality from worsening.
Having learnt from its experience last year, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has also stocked up on disposable surgical masks in preparation for this year’s haze.
Petaling Jaya mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad said the council had managed to obtain supplies beforehand, and had already begun dispensing the surgical masks to employees, especially those conducting outdoor duties.
Similarly, on the MBPJ side, it was learnt that Environmental Health Department employees would be distributing masks around parts of the city.
“We have prepared about 10 boxes of masks of 50 a piece, and will be distributing these until they run out or until the air quality improves,” said MBPJ public relations officer Zainun Zakaria.
Alinah added that she would be working with developers who had construction projects within the city to try and minimise dust pollution.
“Normally, we would use water to try and tamp down the amount of dust raised during construction, but with the water crisis, we will have to look at the situation first,” said Alinah.
Currently, she said, the council was still sending out its water tankers, as well as refilling static tanks placed at strategic neighbourhoods.
“We will also be sending out enforcement officers in the council’s patrol vehicles to escort our water tankers,” said Alinah.
This was, she explained, to avoid having the water tankers “hijacked” by other residents en route, and the water not being delivered to the intended neighbourhoods.
3M Malaysia division head of personal safety division, Emily Phua, said while the company was unable to provide the exact number of N95 masks taken up by the public in last year’s haze, it was working to ensure a sufficient amount of stock was available for dealers nationwide.
“We can also transfer supplies of respirators from other worldwide facilities to Malaysia if demand rises beyond expectations,” said Phua.
He added that there were plans to create better awareness on respiratory health in the offing.