Purify the Air You Breathe

It starts with a tickle, then a small throat clearing, to a cough and before you know it, you feel you are about to cough up a lung due to an upper respiratory infection. What can be done to help?

When the weather starts cooling, a larger number of people show symptoms of a respiratory infection, to be specific: constant cougWhing, two to three times more than in the summer. To make matters worse, most of them do not wear a face mask or even cover their mouths.

People are at a higher risk to catch a respiratory infection in the fall than at any other time of year, according to Doctor Huang Xiaohua from YYL Hospital’s Internal Medicine Department. Due to higher diurnal temperature variations, mucus is frequently stimulated, causing congestion, and it is easier for bacteria and viruses to infect and upset the respiratory system.

I had a traumatic experience in Beijing, when SARS killed many in 2003. I saw people taking showers in public baths with their face masks on to avoid being infected. Judging from the thickness, I’d say there must have been at least 16 layers of absorbent cotton in their masks. Knowing that there were people who were far more perplexed by OCD than me was the only soothing thing in those days.

However, since my son was born, my level of vigilance has escalated. I may not have any cash on me in this modern world, but I can almost miraculously produce a face mask from my pocket and in no time put it on when I detect anyone around me sniffling, clearing their throat or sneezing. I’d rather suffocate under the protection of a face mask than take the risk of catching a cold and passing it on to my family.

I had a traumatic experience in Beijing, when SARS killed many in 2003.

I hoard disposable medical face masks whenever they are on sale, with three layers of filtration and sterilized by ethylene oxide and a Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE) of 99 percent. You can choose face masks made of a new material called polyurethane, which can not only filter pollen but other small air-particles, and it is fairly breathable, even after being washed three to eight times.

Another option to reduce the risk of a respiratory infection is an air purifier, which will cutdown on particles in the air that contribute to the infection.

This is especially for people who have a large family or a smoker in the family. Before I bought mine, I spent half a month researching various brands, domestic and imported, and different models. I compared at least 20 including Dyson, Philips, Panasonic, Midea, Three Papa and even the rarely heard of 352. I suggest four aspects be taken into consideration other than your budget: purification, efficiency, noise and cost of running.

The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) will pop out among so many parameters. Based on China standards, an air purifier with an 800 CADR is suitable for a room as big as 96 square meters. However, the higher the CADR is, the more noise it will make. Make sure your air purifier has a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter, which filters smog, dust and bacteria. Usually, you need to replace your filter every six to 12 months depending on the brand, model and how frequently you use it. Prices for HEPA filter systems can be around 1,000 RMB if you choose one like IQAir (Swiss-made). You could go for the more affordable Xiaomi Pro for 100 RMB.

I don’t have a professional air quality monitor at home but, with the limited experiments I’ve done, an air purifier can make a difference. For example, if I keep it on for the whole night when I wake up the next morning, I will have a clear throat and nose. If you light a cigarette next to it, the screen will display a red warning light indicating polluted air.

If you catch a cold, no matter how careful you have been, and your cough lasts more than a week, see a doctor. Not only to stop your coughing, but to identify the cause of it. Be well!