GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Eye drops, throat lozenges and antihistamines for stuffy nose are in high demand as Malaysians try to stave off the adverse effects of the haze.
The items in many pharmacies in Malaysia are enjoying brisk sales.
Assistant pharmacist Foong Pei Pei said many customers had been buying eye drops to soothe dry eyes.
"We also have many coming in with sore throats. We usually advise them to drink plenty of water.
"We have started giving out face masks to our customers, as we want them to stay safe," she said.
As at 9am on Monday (Sept 16), Putrajaya and some areas in Selangor and Sarawak registered "very unhealthy" air quality., Bernama reported.
Air Pollutant Index (API) in Putrajaya as 203 at 9 am, having deteriorated from 199 at 7am. The API in Johan Setia in Klang was 208; Sri Aman (217); Samarahan (223); and Kuching (248).
An API between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; 51 and 100, moderate; 101 and 200, unhealthy; 201 and 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.
Since last Friday (Sept 13), many state assemblymen have been at schools and markets, distributing face masks on behalf of the state government.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) called for drastic measures to address the transboundary haze problem.
"Plantation companies often fail to comply with Indonesian laws and resort to the use of open burning in land-clearing activities," said its president Meenakshi Raman, adding that it fully supported Indonesia in stopping forest fires permanently, starting with having a clear understanding of the causes.
In Kedah, the state government advised farmers to avoid burning padi husks.
State Climate Change and Environment Committee chairman Simon Ooi Tze Min said it was the harvest season, and since the haze situation was quite bad, farmers should not add open burning to the problem.
"If possible, avoid such activities to prevent the haze from worsening your health. I also advise people to minimise outdoor activities so as not to jeopardise their health," he told Bernama.
Meanwhile, the Selangor government has warned that it will confiscate land in the state if farmers continued with open burning .
Said Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, as quoted by Bernama national news agency: "Open burning for carrying out agricultural activities has, to some extent, worsened the haze situation hitting the country.
"However, we will ensure that confiscation (of such land) is done according to the set procedures and processes as it is not easy to seize these plots of land – some are leased out or encroached upon for growing vegetables."
Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said there had been no extraordinary increase in the number of haze-related illnesses.
He said the ministry was monitoring diseases which could result from exposure to the haze, such as asthma, eye and respiratory infections.
"So far, there has been no spike in the number of patients with such illnesses," he said when speaking to reporters after launching a community programme organised by the Bagan parliamentary constituency office on Monday.
However, Bernama reported that Negeri Sembilan chairman of the state Health, Environment, Cooperatives and Consumerism Committee S. Veerapan said there had been an increase of 14.3 per cent in the number of upper respiratory tract infections, eye infections (3.1 per cent) and asthma cases (1.4 per cent) in the state.
Mr Veerapan said the department had directed its staff to be prepared to face the possibility of a further increase in the number of haze-related cases in the state.
"Health education activities have been intensified in health clinics, especially with high-risk groups, to lessen the impact on health caused by the haze," he said.
He added that steps had also been taken to ensure medical supplies were adequate to meet the needs of the patients.