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Holly

Struggling with health problems since coming to China

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Holly

Since coming to Beijing I've been dealing with a lot of health problems, including:

- Sore, burning eyes

- Raw, sore throat

- Headache

- Runny nose

- Sinus pressure (pain) in face

- Occasional mild cough

- General run-down, "off" feeling

I've also been dealing with a rather strange new problem in which my face is flushing bright red and turning hot every day, starting around 1-1:30. At first I thought it was due to a sinus infection, but because my skin also feels rather itchy and raw, I think it could be due to the hard water, which I've never had to use before, and is very rough on my sensitive skin. Unfortunately my moisturizer doesn't seem to be helping much, although it was great back in the States.

I have yet to see a doctor, because I figured most of these symptoms were being caused by the pollution, and no doctor can solve that particular issue! I've been taking way too many over the counter meds this past month: Claritin, Benadryl, Sudafed... Nothing really helps much. Also using a Neti Pot on a daily basis. And I just bought a very large bottled spring water, to see if washing my face with that versus the tap water would help. I have yet to see a doctor, because I know all they'll give me is antibiotics, and I'm not even positive I have a real sinus infection. I also don't really want to take antibiotics here, to be honest... As for the face, I think trying to see a dermatologist here would be impossible due to language barriers, time issues (I'm in class literally all day), and medical fees. Another study abroad student in my program developed a mystery rash all over his body that baffled the doctors he saw, and had to pay over US $900 in fees. :o

Has anyone here had to deal with health problems due to China's environment? How did you deal with them? I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired! But I'm at a loss with how to deal with this...

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jmhcali

It definitely sounds like you're allergic to the pollution. I've had many of the same problems, which are about twice as bad here as they were when they first appeared ... which was right after I moved to Los Angeles. I went to a doctor in LA when I came down with a runny nose and cough and frequent sore throat that never developed into a real head cold but never went away either, and that's what she told me.

Stuff you can do about it: not much. You can do general things to boost your immune system, which might make you feel less run down. Eat more varied foods, especially fresh fruit. If you eat in the cafeteria a lot (I do) you might want to start taking a multi-vitamin.

Actually if you are getting a lot of headaches and also eating in the cafeteria a lot, you might be sensitive to MSG. I have no idea how you'd avoid eating it in China if you don't do all your own cooking though.

The skin problem sounds like eczema, which could be bacterial (you're not supposed to drink the shower water here for a reason) or just the dry air here, or both. I'd look for a medicated skin cream made for eczema, because it'll help even if that's not exactly what you've got. If you can't find it here, ask someone in the States to mail you a bottle.

Disclaimer: this advice is based on my personal experiences and those of my friends and family, not on any actual medical knowledge or training.

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gato

I had a cold that lasted 2 months when I first arrived in Beijing a few years ago. The pollution does take its toll, especially when you are not used to it. I did eventually get used to it after a few months.

You could try buying an air filter for your apartment. I don't know if it really helps, but it might have some beneficial placebo effect ;)

An air filter is called 空气净化器 and is available at most electronics stores like 国美 or 大中. Yadu is the most common brand for air filters.

See here for an example:

http://www.360buy.com/product/128562.html

亚都(YADU)KJG1201S空气净化器

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adrianlondon

The air in Beijing is very, very dry. I bought a humidifier (cost very little; looks like a cute plastic frog except water vapour comes out of its eyes - try the Wallmart type places) and left that on all night. Very good for the skin.

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Hans K

Holly

I would buy reverse osmosis machine filtered water , and take mega doses of vitamin C 200 - 1000.

C builds collagen helping with - bleeding gums - dry skin - replaces C lost from drinking alcohol.

Stop eating packaged foods , welders say tomatos - red sause / milk /are great toxin removers for inhaled dust .

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Brian US
I bought a humidifier (cost very little; looks like a cute plastic frog except water vapour comes out of its eyes

My friend gave me the pretty pink pig one.

I picked up a Yadu air purifier from the Carrefour, but I wouldn't promise any of these would cure your symptoms.

Is there a specific problem that causes the skin irritations? A Beijing native friend just had a rash outbreak that covers her hands and feet. She has spent a lot of money on a specialist, but the treatment has only gone so far in the last month or two. I never hear about such rashes in the States, so is this a China thing? I notice a lot of skin ailments from passing people on the streets.

The pollution does take its toll, especially when you are not used to it.

How do you get used to pollution?

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Holly

It's not really a rash, since it comes and goes. It's flushing, really - all of the sudden my skin will feel very hot and turn bright red. It then happens on and off for the rest of the day. It kind of feels like my face has its own heart beat, too - it's pounding a lot.

Sucks big time. My cheeks are such a bright red.

I know that some of the students in my program who have been here for 2+ semesters said after a number of months, they began to experience less eye and throat issues. In some ways your body does get used to the pollution after awhile. Doesn't mean it's no longer effecting you, though...

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Jane_PA

Hi Holly,

Allergy is a very headache problem and really pity for your situation.

I also had skin allergy problems for many years, not from polution but from soaps, almost all kinds of soap or shampoo. My doctor suggested that one way might be helpful for any kind of skin allergy/skin problem is: decrease the shower time, both length and frequency, decrease the use of soap or any chemical products, the shower water should not be very hot. This is very helpful for my skin allergy. Because when my skin is allergic, any hot water, water, or soap will only make it worse. So, (you may feel bad), if you are not sweat or too much out door, you should not take shower to make the skin rash worse and give your skin some time to rest or to heal.

You may try for a while to see does this work for you.

Jane

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Erbse

Get a mask or even better some nose filters http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nose_filter

In the long term you should move away from the highly polluted cities. I get the same symptoms in cities like Beijing and there is no medicine except clean air. Consider any of the coastal cities. Dalian should be very well.

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Tianjin42

Sounds like the Beijing pollution to me (amongst a few other things). During my time living in Tianjin and Beijing (on separate occasions) I have gone through the first month/ two months without any problems, and then developed some of the symptoms that you have encountered. My face also becomes a little more red and throat a little sore. I didn’t see a doctor and didn’t take any medicine – everything was just about manageable and improved in Spring.

Lots of the advice here already is useful. A humidifier would be a good idea – I think the combination of extremely dry air and pollution is key. Also the cold weather worsens the situation (especially in regards to skin). Finally spicy food can exaggerate some of these symptoms; do you get any reddening around the mouth when you eat particularly spicy food? If so, avoid excessively spicy food.

From my experience, your symptoms will settle down but not go away. I got through with lots of fresh fruit and veg and on this stay I have bought multi-vitamins which do seem to be helping generally (less worn down). Also, it’s obvious but good sleep if you haven’t been sleeping well or long enough, is always useful. Such things will help but will perhaps only make your symptoms more manageable rather than eliminate them. My skin and red face gets a lot better when the temperature got higher in spring. Might be an idea to get down to Hainan during Spring Festival for a little sun and fresh air as a bit of a pit stop through the winter (if you can afford).

Hope this helps.

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abcdefg
Since coming to Beijing I've been dealing with a lot of health problems, including:

- Sore, burning eyes

- Raw, sore throat

- Headache

- Runny nose

- Sinus pressure (pain) in face

- Occasional mild cough

- General run-down, "off" feeling

I'm guessing you arrived late August, so this has been going on a month plus a little more. These are common symptoms from polluted air. Many people get them almost instantly on arrival in Beijing (or in Bangkok, etc.) General supportive measures, as discussed by other members above, may be helpful.

What I would, however, also suggest is to be sure you don't have a concomitant bacterial sinus infection. To find out, you need at least a CBC (to check for an elevated white count) and a sinus X-Ray (at least a single Waters view to look for air-fluid levels.) If an actual sinus infection (not just allergies or irritation) is present, you will probably need a course of appropriate antibiotics for a minimum of two weeks, maybe even three. (A few days worth will do more harm than good.)

Ancillary measures, such as plain saline nasal spray, or even a temporary corticosteroid nasal mist, may also be prescribed. (Note: do not start using OTC vasoconstrictor nose sprays such as oxymetazoline or phenylephrine.) Recommend you not accept cursory empirical treatment (such as the doctor just takes your pulse and prescribes a shot plus a few days worth of these or those "mystery pills.") At this point in time you need some diagnostic work from a competent clinician.

None of these measures should be terribly expensive. Unfortunately, I don't live in Beijing (am unable to breathe there) and cannot tell you where to go. Also I don't know what to say about the skin rash.

Edit: I should add a prominent disclaimer about the perils of internet medical advice: It is definitely not gospel. There are different ways to approach these matters and every person's situation is a little different.

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LiScing

Reminds me of industrial air pollution in a city in Taiwan many years ago. I dídn't see how people could stand to live or work in that area. You want a permanent disability? Go work there. However, most cities and villages in Taiwan weren't anywhere near this bad - not even close.

Why not move somewhere else? Try a different city or village.

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tboasis7

I wouldn't leave it any longer, if you have health insurance, which is required of ... everyone studying in China, go see a Doctor and get checked out. If unsure about which Doctors to go to I'm sure there are some listed on your insurance company's website. I ended up paying quite a lot initially when I had a bad stomach virus, but I claimed it on my insurance and got better very quickly. Don't be too stereotypical and say all China's pills are bad. Just make sure you go to a decent place, I went somewhere in Ritan Park area.... I have permanent chronic sinusitis, so I totally know what you mean about not being able to breathe... Good Luck

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Holly

Er...in what post did I say all of China's pills are bad? In any case, I never said that, although my doctor almost came right out and did when I last saw her... I don't want to take Chinese antibiotics because I don't know how I'll react to them. I react very badly to antibiotics back home. I was also told by my travel doctor to try not to act any medication here, particularly OTC meds. Also, I've had sinus issues since birth, and antiobiotics almost NEVER, EVER help. I take them and still feel horrible, and have new issues from the antibiotics. So for the last 4/5 years or so I've actually stopped going to my doctor when I have sinus symptoms.

I think it's obvious that the pollution is causing much of my grief, so I also doubt whether antibiotics would do anything. A classmate who went in for a bad cold/virus she had had for nearly a month was given antibiotics and they didn't do anything except cause really bad nausea. So I'm hesitant to run to the doctor and start popping antibiotics, which might just make me worse.

I did start washing my face with bottled water last night, and bought a humidifier at Beida's Wumei. No clue how to work it, but hopefully I can ask my teacher for help. Just realized too that there's no filter - is there a possibility I could make myself worse trying to use this thing? I know you can get bacterial infections from humidifiers...

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jmhcali

It would have to be a pretty serious filter to stop bacteria. However, not too many of them will survive in steam anyway. If you want to be really sure your water is bacteria and virus free, buy an ultraviolet water treater. They're available online for around $100 and never wear out, though you'll have to replace the batteries.

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Holly

That's a bit too expensive. I guess I'll try using this one. Although again, no clue how to...there are a few pictures in the instructions, but they make no sense. The humidifier in the pictures does NOT resemble the actual humidifier. :blink:

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valikor

I also had a cold for about 2 months when I arrived in Beijing last year. After about 2 weeks I gave up on the "try to sleep more, try to drink more water, take vitamins" thing, and just ignored it. It eventually went away. Try to keep your immune system strong, I guess :-/

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adrianlondon

I arrived in Beijing in Sept 2006 to study for one semester, and left in Jan 2007. I got a bit of a cold over Christmas time due to trying to survive on 4 hours sleep a night and simply running myself down, but apart from that (which knocked me out for one day; a roast duck dinner with beers sorted me out!) I was fine.

Maybe it's because I'm from London and am used to some level of pollutants?

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cui ruide

You don't think you could be allergic to MSG, do you? For some reason, the image of a flushing made me think of that...

Garlic (raw is best...I mix it up with my food) does wonders for your immune system.

You might consider going for some Chinese medicine. Acupuncture, cupping, herbs, whatever...

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Holly

I'm not actually eating much Chinese food here, because I can't due to various chronic health conditions I've had since high school. So I've eaten very little to no MSG.

Has anyone else ever experienced skin irritation in China? My skin doesn't really feel dry, or at least the way it does when it's dry back home during the winter. It just keeps flushing really red and feels hot, and sometimes kinda raw/stingy. My dermatologist back home suggested trying hydrocortisone cream, and I bought a humidifier and am now washing my face with bottled water...

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