Dealing With China's Air Pollution

Yes, it is there.
Yes, it can be bad.
Yes, it can be really bad.
Yes, you should still go to China. And, I will be going back!

People have so many questions about China and not all are the sweet wonderful, how was the food, was it beautiful, tell me about the people type of questions. And, I got them too before my recent trip.

I had my mind set that I would fly into Shanghai and hurry out of the city to avoid the pollution. But, my friend, Mark from Mandarin Journeys, said I couldn’t hurry; that I needed to see the city, the old city, and to indulge in the food. So, I listened.

Upon landing and driving into the city, you could just see the smog sitting there, it was thick like soup. I was so scared. Friends had told me I would cough, get congested, and for me, who can’t be within 500 feet of cigarette smoke without loosing it, would be a wreck.

china

The first day, to be completely honest, I didn’t even notice it. The next day we set out by subway and foot to see the French Quarters and other wonderful parts of the city. We must have walked 4 miles before lunch and it was not until we arrived at lunch, where we had the most amazing dumplings, that I really needed some water to clear my system. I had this annoying tickle in my throat, my nose was all stopped up, and I had a slight cough.

Our restaurant was indoors and I had a nice big bottle of water as well as some wonderful hot tea. By the end of lunch, I was back to normal. I felt completely fine and never had the issue again. We walked tons of miles that day and spent the next two days outside in Shanghai as well, and I never had another issue. To be honest, I did always notice when the smog was present, which it is not constant, but was only affected that one time.

I cannot lie, but I was happy to get out of the city for a few reasons, the cigarette smoke for one. But, as I said, I am hypersensitive. I also simply wanted to see more of China, beyond Shanghai with my limited time. I do, however, hope to get back as there are parts I plan to re-visit and other areas I want to see for the first time.

My tips for dealing with the pollution:

  1. Carry a small scarf with you. This will allow you, when it is affecting you, to cover your mouth and nose. This is a new city and there is so much construction going on that it is good to have when you walk past construction sites as well.
  2. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and wash the pollution from your system.
  3. Hot tea is a cure for it all. When I felt the tickle and pollution affecting me, the warm tea really helped a lot.
  4. Make sure your hotel is either non-smoking or has smoke-free floors. The cigarets smoke is not the cause of the pollution, but staying away for it as much as possible will be helpful overall if you are not a smoker.
  5. If the pollution is high, no matter how beautiful it is outside, eat inside.
  6. When all else fails, or just because you can, drink up and enjoy a great Shanghai cocktail.
  7. Exercise indoors, especially if you are sensitive or it’s a high alert day. Seriously folks…
  8. Shanghai is on the north side of the Pacific Ocean, so much of the pollution and movement is greatly affected by the winds from the ocean.
  9. If it is a high alert day, don’t worry. There is so much to do in Shanghai to take breaks from being outside.
  10. Travel during the part of the year that the pollution levels are lower. The best time to travel to China to avoid pollution is June-September. After a three year study, the American Lung Association found that during these months the air quality was the best.
  11. If you have a pulmonary disorder or issue, speak to your doctor and make sure you have their okay and recommendations for your visit.

shanghai, china

My biggest point is to try not to let the fear of the pollution stop you from traveling to Shanghai, an amazing city. I will be going back as I feel there is so much more to see. Friends tell me October is the best month and the pollution levels are just headed up, so I am looking into it for my next visit.