Fighting the Flu?
Not only are we in that time of year between celebrating the Western and Chinese New Year, but we are also right in the middle of another season that may make us feel less than celebratory – cold & flu season! At PureLiving, we’re not medical professionals, so we can’t offer you medical advice to help you ‘fight the flu’. Plus, you probably already know the most common advice already: lots of warm fluids and plenty of rest. We can however offer you a few environmental tips to help you protect yourself and those around you.
About those fluids…
As mentioned above, one of the time-tested and truly best things you must do when in the grip of a cold or flu is to drink plenty of fluids, especially light broths, teas, or just good old hot water with a bit of lemon. Whatever you choose, please make sure that you are starting out with good quality filtered water. If you don’t have a water filtration system in your home, then make sure you are using a reputable brand of bottled water. This is good advice at any time, of course – not just when you are ill – but it’s especially true when your body’s defense systems are already weakened.
Another thing about water
Many people find that taking a nice hot steamy shower is a great way to help relieve chest and/or nasal congestion. Similarly, some people like to hang their heads over a pot of very hot water (sometimes treated with eucalyptus or menthol oils), drape a towel over themselves and inhale the vapors. These can bring some relief, but in doing these things, people may also may be inhaling more than they realize. Tap water in China is treated very heavily with chlorine, in order to inhibit bacteria in the water. On one hand, this is good of course, because it prohibits the spread of waterborne diseases. However, chlorine vaporizes very quickly under heat and pressure, which means that in that shower (or over that pot), you may well be breathing in a fair amount of chlorine vapor, as well as some toxic by-products that can be created when chlorine interacts with organic materials in pipes. In fact, up to 70% of the exposure to chlorine we experience comes via inhalation, rather than through ingestion. Ironically, the most common effects of light-to moderate chlorine gas exposure are symptoms you might associate with having a cold or flu:
- Irritated nasal passages
- Increased dryness in the throat
- Mild sore throat
- Tightness in the chest
If you’ve ever had a cough or sniffles and such that seemed to linger on even weeks after the other symptoms of your flu or cold has long passed, it’s worth considering that perhaps regular exposure to chlorine vapor via your daily shower might be a factor. A good shower filter can help you drastically reduce the amount of chlorine (and other substances), and if you are using the “head over the pot” method of congestion relief, make sure you are using either filtered or bottled drinking quality water.
It’s important to ventilate!
It can be hard some days, when we look out of our windows and see that all-too-familiar haze, to feel that opening up the windows could possibly let in anything that might be called “fresh air.” And it is, unfortunately, terribly true that here in China -whatever city you are in – there are days when it is nearly unbearable to look out the window at all, much less fling it open. However, when you (or someone in the home) has a bad cold or flu, it’s incredibly important to ventilate your home, and exchange some of that inside and outside air. Obviously, if the outdoor PM 2.5 count is alarmingly high, then maybe not just then. But if it’s an ordinary “well it’s not great out there but it’s not pushing up into the 200s either” day, then open up your home for about a half an hour to exchange some indoor and outdoor air. If you’ve been hunkered down in the bedroom for a day or two, maybe move your “base camp” with your blanket, the box of tissues, your iPad and the remote control to the couch for the morning while you let the bedroom air out, and then reverse that plan for the afternoon. The air coming in from outside may not be a pure, refreshing Alpine breeze, but it is important to let as much of the stale indoor air – with all of its cough-laden exhaled sick-person germs – out. Whatever room you are ventilating, make sure that you have the door closed and your air filter and your heat system in that room off. (Unless you just really like wasting money and energy for no reason.) If it is a warm enough day, open up the whole house and ventilate all rooms at the same time, but if it too cold (it is, after all, January) then go room by room.
Yes, you should do this even if you have an air filter
Air filters with a HEPA filter – and there is not really any point in having an air filter that does not have a HEPA filter – can be better than 99% effective at filtering out particles above .3 microns in diameter. (For reference, a human hair has a diameter of about 100 microns.) However, viruses like those that cause colds and flu can be as small as .1-.2 microns, which means some can pass through the HEPA filter. This is largely why ventilation is so necessary.
Absolutely if you have an air filter, you should run it while you are sick. The only time you should not run it is in that 20-30 minutes while you are ventilating the room. Once you have finished ventilating the room, close the windows and put your air filter back on on its highest setting to help clear any PM2.5 that has accumulated in the room, and put your heat back on. After about an hour or so, you should have a nice warm room with some nice clean air, and you can move your sick self back in.
Some models of air filters come with a UV light cycle that can neutralize any bacteria or viruses that do become trapped in the HEPA filter. Although it was mentioned earlier that cold and flu viruses are small enough to pass through, these virus also often attach themselves to microscopic droplets of water (which come from your coughs and sneezes, by the way) and in this case may be caught by the filter. If your air filter has this UV feature, then by all means, use it once or twice each day. If your air filter does not have this, don’t panic. It’s a good feature but if you are ventilating regularly, you should be fine. If you don’t have an air filter at all… think about getting an air filter.
Facing the world
Feeling a bit better and attempting to head to the office? Or maybe have just managed to work up enough energy to make it to the shop for more lemons, ginger and honey? Protect yourself and everyone around you by wearing a mask. You’re already sick and your body’s natural defences are down – don’t take a chance on exposing yourself to some other strain of miserableness that is literally floating around out there. Likewise, as much as they say misery loves company, you don’t really want to pass on your yuck to everyone in the elevator, or that nice lady at the wet market, right? Those same PM2.5 masks that help protect you from air pollution are also going to be the most effective choice in helping you protect yourself from exposure to other people’s germs, and in making sure you aren’t spreading your own around town. Need a mask? Visit our online store.