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Singapore - Health risk

Singapore is free of many of the health hazards that you might find in other Asian countries. The air quality is usually very good and there is very little environmental pollution in Singapore itself. Yet, at some times of the year pollution from forest fires in Indonesia can spread to Singapore. The water is clean and safe to drink. There is a very high standard of public health, however as Singapore has a tropical climate there are some health issues of which one should be aware.

Heat Exhaustion
Adjusting to the hot climate and the consequent air-conditioning may take weeks or months. Expect to feel more tired than usual. Drink plenty of fluids. Choose early morning or late afternoon for outdoor exercise.

Skin Problems
Heat and humidity encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi. Skin conditions like Athlete’s Foot are more common and cuts, scratches and bites can take longer to heal. A good antiseptic solution to use on cuts is povidone-iodine (Betadine), available from pharmacies. Keep cuts covered with non-stick, non-allergic dressing pads.

Dengue Fever
Singapore is free of malaria but dengue fever, another mosquito born disease, does occur here. Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes which bite during the daytime. This is a viral disease with flu-like symptoms that include fever, sore throat, aching in the muscles and joints, an orbital headache (one behind the eyes), nausea, vomiting, and a rash. The illness may last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take two to four weeks. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a relatively rare complication of dengue fever and is a severe illness that requires hospitalization.

The Ministry of the Environment has a control program for this mosquito but outbreaks of dengue fever still occur and are often traced to construction sites. Don’t leave water to collect in containers like pot plants where mosquitoes could lay eggs. Use mosquito repellent if you are taking part in outdoor activities away from built up areas.

Snake and insect bites
Many varieties of snake found here are venomous including cobras, pit vipers, and sea snakes but snakebites are rare. Singapore does not have big areas of natural environment but if you do go walking through long grass be careful. Bites from ants, wasps, spiders, beetles, and centipedes can be painful, but are rarely lethal. However, scorpions can be highly poisonous and those which are nonpoisonous are difficult to distinguish. The Red Cross recommends that all scorpion bites be treated as medical emergencies.

Natural Toxins and Poisons
There are some poisonous plants growing commonly in Singapore homes and gardens. Nurseries and gardeners can help with identification and removal of toxic plants. For more information on Singapore’s poisonous plants and animals go to:

Hot and humid weather causes food to spoil more quickly, particularly seafood, meat (including cooked meat) and dairy products. Eat food that is well-cooked and kept well-refrigerated. Fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly. When eating out, choose restaurants or food stalls that are popular or even crowded. High turnover probably means the food will be fresh or recently cooked.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is commonly added to Chinese food. Some people have an allergy to MSG, experiencing symptoms such as burning in the neck, face, and chest, headache and nausea. Symptoms normally appear about twenty minutes after a meal. Treat the symptoms by drinking plenty of water. If you are sensitive to this food additive, read the ingredients on packaged foods and when eating out check before ordering.

Child Health
Moving to a new location can result in the symptoms of asthma and hay fever becoming worse or being noticed for the first time. Family Food Allergy Support in Singapore (FFASS) helps parents of children who suffer from food allergies and related conditions such as asthma, eczema and airborne allergies. Contact details can be found at the SACAC website:
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a viral illness that particularly affects young children. (This is not to be confused with foot-and-mouth disease in animals in Europe and elsewhere). Symptoms of this disease are fever, sore throat and a rash in the mouth and on the hands and feet. It is relatively common in Singapore and often spreads amongst children in kindergartens. If infected, children should be isolated from others until the rash has disappeared which usually takes about five to seven days.

Other medicals problems in children that may be more common in the heat are impetigo (school sores) which requires treatment with antibiotics, head lice infestations, and diarrhoea which should be treated initially with oral rehydration. Ear infections are common in children who swim in a pool every day. Fungal or bacterial infection of the ear canal may require treatment by ear drops prescribed by a doctor.

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