Haze update: More seeing doctors for haze-related illnesses

Doctors in polyclinics are seeing more patients for haze-related ailments.

Polyclinics in Singapore attended to 3,853 such cases last week, an increase of 16.5 per cent from the 3,307 cases the week before.

SingHealth Polyclinics also told The Straits Times it saw 890 visits for asthma last week, up from 620 the previous week.

The number of conjuctivitis cases surged from 200 to 280 at SingHealth in the same period, while visits for other ailments like upper respiratory tract infection and bronchitis have also increased.

Said administrative assistant Rohana Mohamed Yusof, 35, who visited a polyclinic last week: "My cough usually goes away in two or three days with medicine, but it persisted due to the haze."

Dr Lyn James, director of the Health Ministry's epidemiology and disease control division, said polyclinics have been able to manage the spike in cases.

For now, emergency departments in public hospitals are seeing only a marginal increase in haze-related cases - from 555 cases two weeks ago to 559 last week.

The ministry said there are now over 400 private clinics that have signed up for the government scheme which offers subsidised treatment for haze-related illnesses. Under this scheme, those aged 18 and below, or 65 and above, or who are on public assistance, can see a general practitioner for haze-related conditions for just $10.

On the issue of face masks, the ministry has warned that smaller versions of the N95 on the market may not be effective for children.

Dr James said these were likely designed for smaller adults and were not certified for kids. "These (smaller) masks were not designed specifically for children... so they may not provide the effectiveness they are supposed to."

The Health Ministry has said that children should instead stay indoors as much as possible during hazy conditions.

Meanwhile, employers are continuing to hand out face masks to their workers just in case the haze worsens again.

Singapore Press Holdings yesterday supplied its staff, including news vendors and more than 2,500 delivery workers, with N95 masks. More masks will be ordered.

Said news vendor Veerapandian, 40: "I am glad to receive the mask. I was not able to buy one as it was sold out in many outlets."


Additional reporting by Feng Zengkun, Pearl Lee and Afdhal Rahman