I really should be more comfortable with Beijing’s cold winters, as I grew up in chilly New England. But after six years here, I still struggle with those long nights. I’ve developed a few survival skills for winter that I’d like to share with you.
My top tip is to keep the air moist in your home. Beijing’s humidity levels from October to March are as dry as an airplane cockpit, so it is important to have a humidifier. Humidifiers can boost your indoor humidity levels up to a much more pleasant 30 to 50 percent (a hygrometer can give you readings). Dry indoor air can be very rough on wood furniture, but the biggest health nuisance is dry skin. I’ve tried a few humidifier models and my current favorite is the cool mist evaporator. These use ultrasound waves to quietly release a mist into the room. Their maintenance is easy and it’s important that all models are cleaned weekly to prevent harmful mold and bacteria from growing inside the water tank. Also, calcium deposits can be an issue in Beijing, so use water filters, distilled or boiled water. Humidifiers of all shapes and sizes can be found in many stores, or online at Amazon China (Z.cn).
Besides using humidifiers, most people should treat their skin to a good moisturizer. You should apply it as often as needed; perhaps three or more times a day. The best time is just after a shower or bath, when your skin is still a bit moist. If an itchy dry rash becomes inflamed, sometimes a topical steroid is needed. You could also try over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for this. If your skin is still itchy, visit your family doctor to discuss other options.
I am sure you’ve noticed Beijingers wearing those colorful masks, called kouzhao (口罩), to keep their breath warm. If you want to combine warmth with air pollution protection, consider the new microfiber pollution masks from Vogmask, which come in many designs and can be washed multiple times. A typical cotton kouzhao only filters 30 percent of the air particles, but specially-designed pollution masks, especially the certified N95, can filter more than 95 percent if worn properly.
For extra warmth, I am also a big fan of the heating pads called nuanbaobao (暖宝宝). They attach to your clothes and can radiate warmth for over 12 hours. They can be found at pharmacies, hypermarkets and Watsons.
Another winter treat in Beijing is to soak your feet in a hot water footbath. Most of these machines include vibration and massage features. Many people also add epsom salt or herbal packets for extra muscle relaxation and enjoyment. These useful machines are available at all major stores or again, online at Z.cn.
And don’t forget that Beijing’s suburbs has a few hot spring resorts, which can be both wonderfully relaxing and therapeutic. Fengshan in Changping towards Badaling, Shunjing across from Ikea, and Longxi in the southern suburb of Daxing are my favorites.
Follow these tips and before you know it, springtime will be here!
This article is excerpted from beijingkids December 2012 issue. View it in PDF form here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where you can pick up your free copy.
Photo by spaceamoeba via Flickr