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Holly

Struggling with health problems since coming to China

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Yang Rui

In Beijing, I experienced a slight burning sensation around my eyes and redness when using the tap water to wash my face. I thought I was imagining it until a friend complained about it too. I've never experienced this in other Chinese cities I've lived in (Shanghai, Shenzhen, Qingdao) so it might be peculiar to Beijing.

It wasn't so bad that I went to the lengths of washing my face in bottled water, but I guess you might just be having a more severe reaction. I did cut down to washing my face once a day rather than morning and night, and this helped a lot. I think this is actually good anyway, as it allows the skin to retain more of a balance, and I've kept doing it since I left Beijing 3 years ago. There is definitely an argument for washing less in order to keep the skin's natural balances.

I wonder whether your flushing might be a result of the large temperature differences between indoors and out. Is the heating switched on in Beijing yet? I used to find I got massively overheated indoors.

This probably won't be much help to you as your situation is clearly extreme and is probably caused by some kind of underlying allergy.

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skylee
I did cut down to washing my face once a day rather than morning and night, and this helped a lot. I think this is actually good anyway, as it allows the skin to retain more of a balance, and I've kept doing it since I left Beijing 3 years ago. There is definitely an argument for washing less in order to keep the skin's natural balances.

Could you share more details? Do you just wash your face in the morning (or at night)? How do you keep your face clean?

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gato
How do you keep your face clean?

Once in the morning is enough, unless you use makeup. ;)

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skylee

And people keep talking about the pollution in Beijing ...

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aristotle1990
Has anyone else ever experienced skin irritation in China?

Yes! Skin issues were about the only thing the pollution did to me -- my skin was always red after I took a shower.

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Holly

I feel slightly relieved to hear that, although I'm sorry others suffered the same problems! I'm just so worried about what this is. I was at the Olympic Green today and was flushing horribly. Bright, bright red. So embarassing. My skin was so hot - and it's kind of spreading to my eyelids and ears now. My eyes burn and are sore most of the time, too, but that's been going on since, like, September.

Oh, Beijing.

I wonder if a face mask would help at all?

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jmhcali

If it's spreading I think it's time to see a dermatologist. Bring a Chinese friend to translate difficult things for you.

And call your doctor in the US first and get a copy of your medical records emailed to you, then print out the relevant bits and bring it with you. Don't let the US doctor tell you they can't email it to you. They can, and if you ask for it they have to give it to you.

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Yang Rui
Could you share more details? Do you just wash your face in the morning (or at night)? How do you keep your face clean?

Not a lot to explain really. I wash my face in the evening with a standard face wash to get the grime of the day off. In the morning I just splash some water on it to freshen up, but don't use any kind of soap - it's not like my face gets very dirty overnight.

Before I started doing this my skin was very dry immediately after washing, and then quickly got greasy. But now it seems to have balanced out a bit - I'm no dermatologist, but perhaps washing the natural oils off the face encourages the skin to overproduce oils to replace what has been lost? All I can tell for sure is that only washing once a day hasn't had a negative impact on my face, and if anything, it's had a slightly positive impact. I also save money on face wash.

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skylee
I wash my face in the evening with a standard face wash to get the grime of the day off. In the morning I just splash some water on it to freshen up, but don't use any kind of soap - it's not like my face gets very dirty overnight.

This sounds very sensible. Perhaps I will try it as the weather is getting quite dry lately.

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crisgee

Have you tried taking an antihistamine such as Loratadine? It works as a finishing move for my sniffles, when more sleep, more water, and more vitamin C fail.

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Holly

I've been taking MANY antihistamines to help with my sinus issues, but no luck as far as I can tell. My eyes seem to be getting worse too. Very sore and watery. I just hope to God this is being caused by something here, and isn't something that's going to last when I go back home - some new problem like rosacea. It hurts, and it's very embarassing when it happens. It's exacerbated by bright, hot lights too.

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gato

Considering your pre-existing health issues, you should move to a less polluted city like Qingdao, Xiamen or Kunming. Staying in Beijing may be hazardous to your health.

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abcdefg

Tackling a health problem has two main parts:

1. Diagnosis – figuring out what’s wrong by means of history, physical examination and appropriate tests.

2. Treatment – figuring out what steps to take to make it better and then taking those steps.

Treatment without diagnosis is usually not effective.

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Holly

I'm only in China for a limited period - I'm a study abroad student.

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yonglin

I second gato. If you can find any opportunity to move, I'd suggest that. Preferably to some place with less pollution, but also some place with climate that your body seems better able to cope with. Some of us are just very sensitive when it comes so skin/eczema/rashes/allergies this sort of thing, and the environment can make all sorts of differences. I would be curious to know what sort of climate you're used to (i.e., what it's like in your part of the US). Is the BJ weather very different from that back home? Temperature, humidity, and even water hardness can be quite significant.

You know what? It can go the other way around too. I continuously struggle with my eczema here in Canada: strong prescription ointments, soap-free cleansers, try not to touch anything soapy without gloves, etc. After my two-week trip in southern China, everything had essentially cleared up (only to return after a week or so back in Canada). This is why I tend to think this might be more of an environment/weather/temperature/humidity thing rather than something directly related to pollution. Of course, pollution is bad, but not necessarily the culprit all the time.

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Scoobyqueen

Could it be caused by the indoor pollutant Formaldehyde which is often used in buildings? I thought there were some bans in Europe to use it in residential buildings but I think the Chinese might still be using it. Some of the symptoms you describe seem to be consistent with Formaldehyde poisoning for want of a better word.

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Holly

Well, unfortunately I can't move - I'm a student attending Beida. My housing is paid for by my program, and moving wouldn't be allowed. I AM pretty miserable, but it's just one of those situations where you're stuck. Not fun. I'm disappointed because I want to be able to enjoy my time here, but it's tough. Our last two weeks are traveling to different areas of China (after our finals), and I feel like I don't even want to do that anymore! I'm ready to go home. My body has clearly decided that it doesn't like China.

I'm from Wisconsin, so we have hot summers and very cold winters, but no pollution, and we also have soft water in our house.

I did buy some pure aloe vera gel at a store - a brand that I've seen at Walgreens back home - and am trying to use that. Hopefully it will make some difference.

My eyes are starting to have big issues as well. Watery, dry, burning, and I'm using my eye drops I brought from home 2-4 times a day. Not surprising, I guess, but very disappointing. How the people here deal with it, and how it effects them in the long run, I can't imagine...

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abcdefg
I'm only in China for a limited period - I'm a study abroad student.

I understand. It's clear you are having a tough time. I'm not trying to be critical of your efforts. Good luck!

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gato
Well, unfortunately I can't move - I'm a student attending Beida. My housing is paid for by my program, and moving wouldn't be allowed.

Well, if you can spare a couple of thousands dollars, it might be worth considering moving to another city (like Qingdao, Kunming, or Xiamen) and salvage your experience in China at least. You should be able to find relatively cheap housing and language instruction in one of those places. Being sick all the time while you are here can't be what you had in mind for your trip here.

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