Ways to breathe easy in a sandstorm

10:10, March 24, 2010      

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(China Daily Photo)

The severe sandstorms that are expected to whip across a wide swath of North China over the next few days will increase the risk of respiratory diseases, warns Wang Xuejing, a TCM doctor from China-Japan Friendship Hospital's respiratory disease department.

The risk is particularly high for people with chronic respiratory problems, Wang says. "They should be especially alert and avoid outdoor activities," she says.

The hospital saw a marked increase in visitors to the respiratory department over the weekend, with complaints of asthma, bronchitis and even emphysema, according to Wang.

The huge amounts of dust that sandstorms carry challenge the filtering function of nasal mucus and the lungs. "Dust and bacteria may go deep into the respiratory passage and trigger asthma and bronchitis," Wang explains.

It is best to stay indoors and keep all doors and windows closed, doctors say.

Wang also warns that children and the elderly should take extra care because their immune systems become more fragile in such weather. They run the risk of catching a racking cough that could worsen if left untreated.

"Drinking more water and eating food rich in vitamins will help keep the respiratory passages moisten and reduce throat discomforts caused by the dry weather," Wang says.

One should load up on lemons, oranges, kiwifruits, cabbages, potatoes, milk, eggs and spinach and go easy on hot and spicy food, such as lamb and hot pot, Wang suggests.

Experts also advise wearing masks, cleaning one's nose with salt water and removing grit from the ears with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol.

Sandstorms can cause eye discomfort and conventional glasses are better than contact lens in such weather.

One's eyes are particularly vulnerable to the dramatic change in temperatures and heavy pollution. Conventional glasses can prevent the dust from entering the eyes, while the dust tends to stick to the contact lens and could trigger an eye infection.

Always wash your eyes with clean water to clear out the dust and avoid rubbing them.

Source: China Daily
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