PETALING JAYA: Face masks now serve a dual purpose, protecting oneself from Covid-19 and also the haze that has been blanketing the country the past week, say experts.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh is advising the public to continue masking up, especially the elderly and children, to protect them from the harmful effects of the haze.

She said the air pollution consists of fine particles that could enter the human body through the respiratory system and cause health problems.

“The fine particles can go into our breathing system through our throat and lungs, which may cause health issues such as bronchitis. It could also settle on the skin and eyes, which can cause irritation,” the professor and public health expert said.

As Hari Raya Aidilfitri approaches, Prof Sharifa said the public should try to reduce outdoor activities.

“It is important to wear a face mask when outside, especially an N95 that could block fine particles.

“Haze is always related to extreme heat that could lead to heat stroke; hence, staying hydrated is also the best way to ensure good health conditions,” she said.

Prof Sharifa also said that setting up air purifiers in the house would also help ensure the indoor air is free of pollutants.

She also said that before visiting an area during Hari Raya, the public are advised to check the air pollution index (API) of the location.

“If the area records bad API readings, then, if possible, avoid going there,” she said.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai concurred, saying that the public must stay informed about the haze and take heed of any warnings or advice from the authorities.

“Face masks will indeed serve a dual purpose if the haze is still around during the Aidilfitri holidays.

“It will also be important to stay hydrated as the heat can cause dryness of the throat and eyes,” he said.

To continuously ensure Covid-19 can be contained, Dr Muruga also said the public must wear face masks when visiting houses where there are vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

“Those with an existing respiratory illness will need to take extra care to avoid exposure to both the haze and Covid-19.

“Whether it’s the haze or Covid-19, if you’re having trouble breathing, you should go to the emergency department of a hospital immediately,” he added.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has advised the public to take precautionary measures as the haze situation is expected to worsen, with air quality dropping in several areas of the country.

“People should limit physical activities during the hot weather that could lead to illness.

“Limit being outdoors, use suitable face masks and protect yourselves from the haze by using umbrellas and caps to prevent direct exposure to the hot weather,” she said in a statement yesterday.

She urged the public to halt activities that would lead to air pollution, such as smoking, and to drink more warm water (at least eight glasses) to prevent dehydration.

According to a Swiss air quality index (AQI) monitoring company, a monitoring station in Kuala Lumpur recently recorded an unhealthy air quality of 117.

However, as of yesterday afternoon, almost all 68 air pollution index (API) stations in the country showed moderate readings below 100.

The website also forecast that the AQI in Kuala Lumpur on Friday (April 21) and Saturday (April 22), when Hari Raya Aidilfitri is expected, would be moderate, with readings of 80 or higher.

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