吞云吐雾

Singapore has banned smoking in a very long and ever expanding list of public places, but there still seems to be  no way to escape second hand smoke. I’m extra conscious of it when I’m with Sophia. Despite the seemingly comprehensive ban, Sophia is still constantly subject to the harm of tobacco.

Next to a food center that we were eating at last weekend was this group of kiddy rides. While Sophia hates a moving kiddy ride, she remains attracted by the colourful structures and enjoys just sitting on them and pretending to drive/ride. So naturally she kept asking to be brought there BUT there was a man standing next to the bin right next to the Winnie the Pooh ride puffing away for the longest time. I waited for a good 15 minutes for the toxins to clear before allowing Sophia to go over and noticed that there were cigarette ashes on the rides closest to the bin. Perhaps bins with ashtray facilities should never be anywhere near kids facilities or, indeed, any place that people may hang around for any length of time.

Actually the hubby says the japanese got it right with smoke boxes and Singapore should import these and have a general ban on smoking except in these boxes. I can imagine the smokers being mighty unhappy about it but if there are enough of these around to not inconvenience smokers and a sufficiently good filtering system such that the smoke is drawn out but does not harm people outside the box, I’m for it. Perhaps the government’s investment in this can be incremental. The law can say that it is illegal to smoke within 50m of a smoke box, because smokers have no excuse not to head to one so close away, and as more smoke boxes get installed, more of Singapore becomes smoke free. Building regulations can say that all new buildings need to be fitted with  a smoke box so people will smoke there instead of outside the buildings along pedestrian walkways.

What do you guys think? Is this yet another case of me being a neuro protectionist mum or are you guys also concerned about your children taking in second hand smoke?

Pigeon Attack

Around my home and on many of the paths which I HAVE to take on the way out and to key places that I often go to like the office, the MRT station, there are many pigeons, which we all know, is a health hazard. However, it seems that many do not quite understand why so as I saw someone freaking out when a pigeon flew over her baby, frantically waving her arms in the air in a fanning motion and murmuring something about “powder” from the bird. In fact, the danger from pigeons is largely not from the birds themselves but from the droppings which may contain certain fungus and bacteria, some of which may become airborne when they dry up.

Unfortunately, these droppings cover many of the paths that my family cannot avoid everyday, some inside my condo development and some outside. Feeding grounds nearby are numerous – the rubbish bins used by the restaurants in the lane right outside the development, the food centers nearby and the temple(s) that leave food out as part of their offerings. After having their fill the birds come over to roost and sometimes have a drink at the swimming pool.

My condo management office is not doing anything about it other than advising us to install nets keeping the birds out of our house, which does not help the situation in the public areas, some of which we cannot avoid such as the only lane leading out from the lift lobby. I’ve alerted AVA so they can look into whether there is anything they can do outside of the condo to remove the sources of food (it is illegal to feed pigeons after all).

We have also been carrying Sophia when we pass places with a high density of pigeon droppings but I also don’t want her to get into the habit of being carried.

Any ideas how to protect my little one from potential infection?

More rash/bites

Got a second medical opinion because, on top of her eye swelling up again, large angry patches appeared on her leg. The first diagnosis of hives came from Sophia’s regular pediatrician. This time, we went to the family doctor that I have been going to since I was a child because he also has a special interest in dermatology although he is not a dermatologist. His opinion is that it is some sort of insect bite. So now who should we believe and what should we do about the rashes, blisters and all??

Btw, the husband, who claims to be the expert in hives having suffered through it for more than 30 years, opined that it is hives as hives tend to be clustered around one area and not in such disparate places as head and ankle. Who am I to know?

One Eyed Bandit

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That’s not her winking at you; that’s her with one eye so swollen she can’t open it. We think its a mosquito bite but as usual she has to develop strange ailments like this on a public holiday where all her usual physicians are not working. We’re reluctant to bring her to A&E departments because (i) if it really were a mozzie bite we would really look quite silly waiting hours to be told that and (ii) last time we went to KKH’s A&E we went off not feeling too confident of the very young non-local doctor’s judgement and brought her to her usual doctor the next day so it seemed rather like a waste of time.

Here’s hoping the swelling will subside soon!

UPDATE:

Thanks for all the well wishes! Turns out, it was hives. Her daddy gets them too so I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising. Her left eye also swelled up but instead of the upper lid it was the lower lid so she looked quite a sight. Not that she seemed to mind. When the grandaunt came over she pointed at her one open eye and proudly declared “Open!”

Thalassaemia

Before I met the obgyn who took care of me when I was pregnant with Sophia, Christine Yap, all medical practitioners in Singapore whom I spoke to about thalassaemia had very (to my mind) non-progressive views. Their advice to my husband (then fiance) and I ranged from “don’t get married” to “just do amniocentesis to test for thalassaemia”. However, nobody told me about ways that are, to my mind, much better options. I had to research about them and make appointments with a few obgyns to talk through them before I found Christine, who was completely on the same page as me. So today’s post is going to be a rather dry but hopefully informative one.

First, some background. Thalassaemia is basically a genetic disease. As you may know, genes work in pairs. Thalassaemia minor means that one of the gene is the “defective” gene and the other is normal (to put it simply). The fetus will take one gene each from each parent and that forms the fetus’ pair. Probably theory tells us that there is therefore a 25% chance of the fetus being perfectly healthy with a pair of “normal” genes, 50% chance of having one “defective” and one “normal” gene and 25% chance of the fetus having both defective genes. When a person is born with both defective genes, that person has thalassaemia major and is destined to live a short and miserable life. Hence the aim is to prevent that. How then?

Safest choice would be to do pre-implantation testing. Essentially this involves going through an IVF procedure with the fertilised egg being tested to be normal before being implanted. However, this very clinical method of making babies is unappealing to many parents, ourselves included, for obvious reasons.

The next best choice then is, to me, transabdominal chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Essentially the obgyn pokes a needle through the mum’s abdomen to extract a single villi from the mum’s placenta and sends that for genetic testing. Previously it was thought that this method carries a higher risk of miscarriage and fetal deformity. However, more recent research reveals that this is only true if CVS is conducted before 9 weeks of gestation. If it were conducted past 11 weeks, the difference in safety compared to amniocentesis is almost negligible. However, CVS’s very significant advantage is that CVS can be performed at 10-12 weeks wherease amniocentesis can only be safely performed at 16 – 20 weeks. That means with CVS you would know at least 4 full weeks earlier, when abortion is still safe and much less traumatising.

So for the thalassaemia carriers out there (and there are many in asia), I hope this teaser encourages you to find out more about what can be done and not take the word of healthcare professionals at face value. They are only human and have their biases which may or may not be objectively the most correct view.

Pat on my own back

What was I thinking, running the JPM Corporate Challenge after not running for more than 2 years and having a child in that time?

When I crossed the starting line, I was squeezing my way forward among the crowd, completely ignorant of how unfit I am at the moment. 300 meters of this left me exhausted and I had to content myself with a slow jog while runners overtake me from all over. After what seemed like eternity I spotted the 2km sign and at about the same time my right knee started to hurt. Nevermind I can do it. I shall not stop for rehydration because once I stop running I tend to develop a stitch. So on I go, jogging jogging… at about the 3 km mark I realise I have a glimpse of what its like for Terry Fox because each step brings a sharp pain in my knee. step… ouch… step… ouch… I finally reached the point where I turn back. Bottleneck. Its not even moving. I jogged on the spot like an idiot again worried I won’t be able to get myself started again. After 4 traffic light turns of jogging virtually on the spot, I finally clear the u turn and start running again. Huff puff… Rehydration station ahead at 4km. Heck it. I need water. I stopped and grabbed a cup. Kicked myself for being an idiot at the earlier rehydration station because the water helped so much. I have strength to go into a faster trot. But not for long because the 100m or so of sprinting hurt my knee too much. In fact, beacuse of overcompensation, my left ankle is hurting too. Slow to a jog again. Remind self of how I’ll be able to brag on my blog that I ran all the way, nevermind that my timing is potentially slower than a brisk walker. Jog jog.. finish line in sight. Dash.. ouch.. ok jog. Yay! Cleared 5.6km without walking. Pats self on back.

After celebratory drinks I limp home with a hurting knee hoping to be able to shower and collapse in bed but see that baby’s room’s lights are still on. She’s still playing with grandpa!!! Off with the lights. After a lot of pacifying, she finally sleeps at an unearthly hour (for her). And off to bed for me too…..

Hopefully this will be the start of a healthier lifestyle (ie some exercise at least) for me!

Just as I thought I had the best angel baby in the world…

At least when it comes to sleep training since Sophia has been sleeping from 10-ish to 7 without voluntarily waking up since she was, oh I don’t remember, somewhere between 6 weeks and 2 months old, and this progressed to 8pm to 7am as she got older. BUT last night she screamed for a full 3 hours and more before eventually sleeping at 11 plus. Ok, the poor girl was sick so I should cut her some slack but I’m not used to dealing with a sick baby. Prior to this Sophia was breastfed so never fell sick except once when she was about 6 weeks old and she was very good that time, no fussing or anything. Ate and slept as per normal. I do hope she recovers soon. Brought her to the doctors for some non sedating cough syrup which hopefully will help her sleep better. I need some sleep……

At times like this I kick myself for stopping breastfeeding.

Hands for Homes

Bedbugs. Pesky things they are. Our home suffered a case of (suspected) bedbug infestation before. I’m semi embarassed to admit it because it sort of suggests we are somewhat unhygienic and hence allowed bedbugs to breed. That may or may not be true. I’m not a cleanliness freak and my husband is worse but we’re not filthy and we don’t go around bringing garbage home. Nevertheless all of us started getting incredibly itchy bites on our hands and legs and even baby was attacked. I started researching on the pest and realised they are a global problem even in other developed cities. They spread so easily especially in fabrics. You can bring it home by sitting on an infested cab seat, buying clothes from an infested boutique, laying your towel on an infested hotel bed, the list is endless. To get rid of them is difficult. And with a young baby I didn’t want to spray my place with pesticide. This website contains some useful methods of dealing with a not-so-severe infestation, as was the case for my home. I applied some of the principles to my home – took the covers off all our bedding and sofas and put them in the washer and dryer, and used a vacuum cleaner to vacuum the crevices and corners of my home and the seams of sofas and mattresses. The problem went away.

Ours is probably a minor infestation and hence easy to fix. Yet it already made our lives quite miserable. The bites were really itchy to the point that I was woken up several times a night by existing welts. I cannot imagine the lives of the elderly in rental flats who have no ability to deal with the issue themselves. How do they live with these bloodsucking pests?

Hence I’m quite happy to be able to do my part for the Hands for Homes programme. Its not just about bedbugs but also about other improvements to the homes of the elderly, low income households in Tanjong Pagar GRC like fitting them with induction cookers (some of the elderly still cook with kerosine stoves!) and changing lightbulbs. Anyone keen to join me as a volunteer?

Insurance 101

Rule number 1: Buy health insurance for your child once he/she is born. Immediately. Before she develops any medical issue of any kind. Unless he/she is born with obvious issues that is detected from birth in which case you should still try to buy insurance even if that condition needs to be excluded.

This of course means you should do your research about what health insurance to get before baby is even born. In Singapore when people think of health insurance they generally think of 2 kinds 1) the shield plans and 2) the 30 critical illness plans. I venture to suggest there is a third kind but lets take it step by step.

Shield plans are generally quite cheap and you can pay for them using medisave. So just pick one and it will be good to also get the optional riders that essentially mean that for a bit more each year your medical bills are covered from the first cent.

Then there is the 30 critical illness type which is less essential and is usually tied to a life insurance plan so you can think about that later

The third kind is a comprehensive medical plan that covers everything from hospitalisation to GP visits to specialists consultation and even, for some plans, TCM, vision correction ie contact lens or glasses or lasik and even pregnancy and delivery. These are typically much more expensive than the shield plans so the price puts people off. As a result such products are few and far between in Singapore. I ended up getting one of these for both myself and Sophia and its the best thing I’ve done. Whenever Sophia is sick we just head down to our familiar pediatrician. Cost is not an issue. We do not need to consider whether we should subject Sophia to the nurses at the polyclinic or take a gamble whether we will end up with a good doctor at A&E. We know we’re in Dr Low’s good hands. As for myself, I am still relatively healthy but there could be a day where I come down with some permanent issue and may need to see some specialist on a semi regular basis but not necessarily be admitted to a hospital. This is where the comprehensive plan will come in handy for the substantial bills that cannot be claimed under the shield plans.

Rule number 2: Once the health insurance is settled, start thinking about financial planning for educational costs. The insurance planner’s choice is of course an endowment fund which is a good thing if you are not a disciplined saver and savvy investor. You can of course do much more yourself if you happen to have both these skills but if you don’t, a good endowment plan is an option to consider. If you at least have saving skills, an endowment is not all that essential. If you don’t even save, then please go get one because children are expensive these days. A premium preschool will already cost S$1000 a month which works out to S$66,000 if you plan to send them there from 18 months onwards, like I do. Overseas universities fees and living expenses, taking into account inflation, will probably cost some half a million by the time today’s babies attend universities. Its really no joke.

Rule number 3: Life insurances are a waste of money. But then that’s just my personal view and there are people who have benefited from them, say people who unfortunately meet with an accident and leave behind young children. Or people who unfortunately contract one of the critical illnesses and used the payout for treatment (but this would be covered if you have the comprehensive medical insurance discussed above).

Then there are a myrid of other insurances I could get I suppose. One that was pushed to me when Sophia was born was an sccident insurance. Which again is a waste of money because Sophia already has said comprehensive medical plan. See how the plan that looks expensive is actually cheap because it avoids the need to buy so many other plans?

Top 10 reasons why I’m glad we got rid of the maid

Reason #10

I found vouchers that friends gifted to us when Sophia was first born stashed underneath stacks of irrelevant things – again the maid’s habit of stacking things up regardless of what they were rather than sorting them out and putting them away properly.

Reason #9

When we mopped the floor we found a big patch of mould underneath the plastic board we placed under our study table and chair to protect the parquet flooring. Good thing the wood hasn’t started to rot.

Reason #8

We found the iron all taped up with cellophane tape – our guess is she dropped it and it cracked but she didn’t inform us.

Reason #7

When I wiped the counter where I prepared Sophia’s food and dried her utensils on, the cloth turned black as soot. This was the same place the maid promised she wiped daily.

Reason #6

I can play freely with Sophia and discipline her (or not) in whatever way I want without a judging eye watching over me constantly

Reason #5

I no longer have to climb up a stool an average of 10x everytime I cook/bake in order to reach things that the maid irrationally stored on the highest cabinet rather than reachable areas.

Reason #4

I found and killed the mosquito that was tormenting Sophia nightly and leaving ugly scars on her hands and face beind a pile of stuff that the maid stacked up rather than sorted out into cabinets

Reason #3

When I washed Sophia’s drying rack after she left, the base was so sticky and filthy it was a fly trap. Literally. No less than 3 bugs were stuck to it and goodness knows how long they have been there. gross.

Reason #2

Despite constant reminder to use the mild cleaning products where possible and as little of it as she can, the maid constantly overdose on strong cleaning products so much so that even my marble get bleached then crumbles away. Can you imagine what all that is doing to our skin and, in the case of cooking utensils, our health?

And, the best of them all, better than even the one with the decomposing fly, the top top top reason:

I can finally kick Sophia out of my room into her own room which till recently was occupied by the maid! Yippee!!

Next time I feel tired scrubbing yet another bottle or cleaning up yet another pee/poo accident, I will pull this out and remind myself now this is all for the family’s health and Sophia’s proper upbringing.