This contributed photo by Silver John Sobebe of Balabac town shows a wispy haze in the field of view that might be from the forest fires in Indonesia.

The Department of Health (DOH) warned Friday that patients experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pains, and tearing of the eyes because of the haze from the Indonesian forest fires should immediately consult their doctors or visit health facilities nearest them.

Health Secretary Dr. Francisco T. Duque III said this in a statement after acknowledging that parts of Visayas and Mindanao, including Palawan, are already affected by the haze brought by the intense forest fires in Indonesia caused by palm oil land clearings.

It said that the haze contains particulate matters (PM), dust, smoke particles, and air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide that can potentially affect a person’s health.

Fine particulate matter, which is less than 2.5 micrometer in size, poses the highest health risk as it can go deep into the lungs and bloodstream, the DOH statement said.

Hazy morning in Balabac in this contributed photo.

Short-term exposure to these particles can aggravate existing lung conditions, cause asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, and heart conditions. It can cause cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, conjunctivitis, headache, dizziness, fatigue, skin irritation, eczema, and mild irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and patients with existing lung and heart conditions are most vulnerable.

“I ask the public to minimize their outdoor activities and refrain from strenuous physical activities once haze is confirmed in their area. If this is unavoidable, use a dust mask such as an N95 mask,” the statement quoted Duque.

Duque also reminded the public to exercise caution when driving in low visibility areas and to stay away from low-lying areas where smoke and suspended particles may settle.

“I advise patients with difficulty of breathing, chest pain and increased tearing of the eyes to consult a doctor or go to the nearest health facility immediately,” Duque said in the statement.

“Our health facilities are ready to address their concerns,” he added.