One major problem with Beijing’s winters is the dry air, which will dry out everyone’s skin and throats. Many of us get dry throats which causes frequent coughing, and sometimes your skin can be so dry that it becomes very itchy and almost painful. To combat this annual problem, I strongly recommend indoor humidifiers to keep humidity levels to a pleasant 40-60 percent. China’s electronics stores carry many brands, but I prefer the Yadu brand, which has a good reputation with their large, two-tank model for around RMB 900. Another tip is to apply a good moisturizer just after you shower. You can find many moisturizers at Watsons, including my favorite brand, Neutrogena. More severe cases can use thicker emollients such as Vaseline.
If you are often outside, it helps to use a face warmer, called a kouzhao (口罩). It’s worn like a mask and comes in many patterns. It nicely warms up the air you breathe in and also helps slightly with air pollution.
One supplement that you may consider taking this winter is vitamin D, both for yourself and your children. This crucial vitamin is usually created in your skin via sunlight, and many northerners have low levels during the winter. There are quite a lot of new studies showing benefits of vitamin D in decreasing winter colds in children and adults; as well as strengthening bones, boosting your immune system, and helping with blood pressure, diabetes and possibly cancers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 IU of vitamin D daily for all children and adolescents, including breast-fed infants, who are more at risk of deficiency. Increasing numbers of medical groups, such as the Canadian Cancer Society, are starting to recommend that adults take 1,000 IU a day during the winter.
I encourage you to join your fellow Beijingers and start eating roasted chestnuts and yams, sold on almost every street corner. Both are delicious and also nutritious. If that isn’t enough to warm you up, try hitting a local hot spring. My favorite is Longxi Hot Springs Resort, one hour south of Beijing in Daxing.
While at home on a cold night, you can recreate the hot spring experience with a comforting foot bath. Try soaking your feet with some epsom salts (otherwise called magnesium sulfate). Epsom salts are available in clinic pharmacies as well as April Gourmet.
Another great way to fight off the winter blues is to exercise; many studies show that exercise routines can boost your mood and energy, help fight off depression as well as improve your sleep. If you feel the winter blues are really getting you down, don’t hesitate to seek help from any of the counseling staff at the expat clinics.
Follow these steps and the winter months will fly by.
Longxi Hot Springs Resort
8 Shunjing Lu, Panggezhuang Village, Daxing District (8928 2222)
Need more info? American Dr. Richard Saint Cyr works at IMC and runs a blog, www.myhealthbeijing.com