Risks newborn babies face from the haze

Newborn babies are at risk from the haze in Singapore and should remain indoors when the PSI reading reaches 100 and above. Parents should keep the doors and windows closed and use a fan or air‐conditioning to ensure the room stays cool and comfortable. The filters of the air conditioner must be cleaned regularly to ensure that they are in optimal working condition.

During a haze, newborn babies require no other type of protection, such as a special curtain covering their bed.

Keep your newborn away from the haze

“Keeping the baby in an air‐conditioned room all day is safe as long as the thermostat is set at 22‐24 degrees Celsius and not 18‐19 degrees,” says Adj Prof Victor Samuel Rajadurai, Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group. “Babies should not be protected with any kind of curtain while they are lying down. This will not be effective against the tiny haze particles and may also make the baby too warm and uncomfortable.”

It is not safe to put a mask on a baby, be it indoors or outdoors.

If you are using an air purifier, make sure it is not the type that produces ozone gas which can be harmful for the baby.

Ill effects of the haze on newborn babies

Exposure to the haze can harm the nose, lungs, and eyes of babies and result in the following signs and symptoms:

  • Itchy, watery or red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Dry irritant cough
  • Some form of breathing difficulty

Sneezing is often normal in newborn babies and parents need not worry about this.

If your baby experiences itchy or red eyes or if there are purulent secretions, you should consult your GP to ensure the baby doesn’t have an eye infection. “If an eye infection is ruled out, then normal saline drops can help to remove any dust particles or irritants in the eye,” says Adj Prof Rajadurai.

If your baby develops a rash, consult a doctor if it appears different from a normal baby rash which usually clears up on its own in a few days.

High-risk infants and the haze

“It’s not common to have skin problems as a predominant symptom of the haze. Skin rashes are mostly benign in newborn babies and they resolve without any treatment. The usual symptoms are related to the eyes, nose and lungs. However, parents need to be extra vigilant with premature babies, babies with heart problems, infants who need prolonged oxygen or respirator support, and babies on home oxygen treatment. In such high risk infants, if respiratory symptoms such as worsening of cough or breathing difficulty were to occur, the paediatrician or neonatologist should be consulted as early as possible rather than attributing the above symptoms to the haze,” says Adj Prof Rajadurai.

For all other symptoms that persist, please consult a doctor.

Ref: S13

Check out our other articles about haze and air pollution:

How to Protect Your Child from the Haze

Health Effects of Air Pollution