The haze has attacked our nation once again and the only way that we can defend ourselves is using…an N95 mask.
Sounds pathetic, but true.
N95 face masks have been in high demand lately, as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings in Singapore continue to climb into the unhealthy range.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) recently revealed on Thursday, 19 September, that the government has a national stockpile of 16 million N95 masks that can be released to the market when required.
Now that’s a LOT of masks. It’s basically almost triple the size of Singapore’s population.
But, exactly how necessary are they?
Do you even wear them when you’re at home?
When To Wear An N95 Mask
The haze may have come as a bit of a shock this year, considering the fact that we’ve had clear, blue skies for the past three years. Last Saturday was the first time since August 2016 that 4-hour PSI reading reached the “unhealthy” level, at about 4 in the afternoon.
I’m sure this led to a lot of people frantically rushing to stock up on N95 masks.
However, N95 masks don’t actually need to be worn all the time just because the sky has gotten slightly hazier.
According to the National Environmental Agency (NEA), a healthy person may want to wear a mask if he has to be outdoors for several hours when the air quality forecast is in the hazardous range.
You don’t have to wear a mask if you’re indoors, or outside only for a short period of time.
However, you can still go ahead and wear one anyway if you feel safer doing so.
The Meaning Behind Different PSI Readings
PSI readings have been hovering between “moderate” and “unhealthy” these past few days, but it has never reached a stage where it’s “hazardous”.
The air quality can be considered moderate if the reading is between 51 to 100, unhealthy for 101 to 200, and very unhealthy for 200 to 300. If it goes beyond 300, it means that the air quality has become hazardous.
Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with chronic lung or heart disease are advised to avoid or minimise outdoor activity the moment the air quality reaches an unhealthy level.
Masks Might Be Uncomfortable For Some People
Those with breathing difficulties are also advised to consult with their doctor first if they should wear the N95 mask. This is because it does require more effort for one to breathe, and it might cause discomfort, fatigue or headache for some people.
“This may be due to the mask causing increased resistance to breathing, and a reduction in the volume of air breathed,” said NEA.
However, it is usually not the case and most people are still able to breathe fine while using the mask.
Where To Get An N95 Mask
They’re available almost everywhere. You can find N95 masks at major pharmacies and supermarkets like Unity, Watsons, Guardian, Cold Storage, Giant and NTUC FairPrice.
“We will continue to closely monitor the availability of masks to the public,” NEA said on Tuesday, 17 September.
NEA also said on its website that the national stockpile of N95 masks would be released to the major pharmacies and supermarkets if they needed more.
If you still have not purchased an N95 mask, it’s better to go and get one just in case the haze does get worse and enter the hazardous level eventually.
Meanwhile, you can keep yourself updated on the daily PSI readings here.