‘Tis the season to be sick!

If I look at Doi Suthep I can see how polluted Chiang Mai is. If I can see the mountain, then that’s a good sign, if I can’t, that means bad things.

Even though my students were sniffling and my coworkers were feeling miserable, I ignored the signs: CM’s pollution has come early this year. And no wonder, as it’s been a very busy high season, with Chiang Mai topping the nation’s number of accidents and the cool season starting later and lasting past its usual time.

More tourists mean more traffic, more traffic means more exhaust (and accidents), and cooler weather means more burning. Sigh. Air Supply isn’t just a horrible music band, its a clean air act lacking up here. Consequently this causes yearly pollution sickness.

I’ve been doing light research these past couple of days as I have been fighting the symptoms, and surprisingly there aren’t a lot of solutions out there, just articles on the air pollution problem. Last year was really horrendous, so I got a sinus infection. I was also living outside of the city, which sounds lovely but I could see the slashing and burning in full daylight just down the road from my wooden house.

Now I’m in the city and even though my apartment is not air tight, it’s certainly a vast improvement over my old Thai-style house next to the burning mountain.

So what can we do?

Wear a mask.  I know, I know. But really, you have to minimize the effects of the pollutants in the air. It’s absolutely nasty, and I’ve lived here a few years and I know I’ve gotten used to it. The pharmacy by Tha Phae Gate sells carbon filtered masks. Painter’s masks are better and they are at construction supply stores like HomePro.

Stay indoors. I know, I know. I’ve been keeping all my windows shut for days now. It’s not fun. I like fresh air. But I like being healthy too. Apparently, mornings are when the pollution is the lowest, with the levels creeping up or peaking around 4pm. Your car a/c doesn’t help .

Eat your fruits and vegetables. This shouldn’t be surprising. Antioxidants are preventative; they help you combat the toxic crap everywhere. I’m treating my current sickness like I would any old cold. I’ve increased my vitamin C intake, cut down sugars, and dairy and wheat. Actually I was on my way to doing this already since I noticed my diet had taken an unhealthy turn during the holidays.

Buy an air purifier. Affordable ones ran out of stock last year. I’m contemplating getting one this year. My friend has one and he loves it.

Leave. I’m not trying to be bitchy here (too late). Many folks leave during this time of year. They are like snowbirds but instead of leaving the winter cold snow they are avoiding the haze smog heat. Hmmmm. Smogbirds?

What works for me? The neti pot. I don’t have a proper one so I use a small ceramic pitcher that looks like it was supposed to be used for cream, milk or pouring maple syrup (555. I have real maple syrup! I didn’t have to say that but I wanted to brag!). I forgot about it (see: small ceramic pitcher) and then remembered it, and now I’m sooo happy. It helps me a great deal and made last year’s sinus infection manageable too.

Of course, there are always drugs. Sigh. I try to avoid them at all costs. If I’m on drugs then I’m really in bad shape. I know, how un-American of me.

6 replies on “How to be healthy during pollution season?

  1. Lani, I don’t know how you can stand it when the burning starts. Living mostly indoors with air cleaners going and the windows taped might be your best bet. In Brunei I even had a filter that worked via the cigarette lighter but I know you are on a bike.

    Those neti pots are supposed to work great! My son also has asthma and he swears by them. But my nose doesn’t get bothered by the smog – too much – instead, my lungs constrict and my breathing gets short.


    1. Unfortunately I can’t leave b/c of work. One year, my friend Julia got this weird eye film during pollution season. She went to the pharmacist and she’s like, oh yeah, take these eye drops and the film over her eyes went away. Scary!!!!


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