Battling a Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China

My sinus’ are congested, my nose is running and I have a slight headache.  It was only the day before when I had the bright idea of running 2 miles up and down the peaks and dips of the undulating Great Wall of China.  The air quality didn’t seem unhealthy at the time, but now it’s apparent I’m battling a respiratory infection in Beijing.

My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China

My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China. The Great Wall reaches 13,000 miles and is 2,700 years old
My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China. The Great Wall reaches 13,000 miles and is 2,700 years old

Daily monitoring of the Air Quality Index (AQI) in China is as commonplace as checking the weather in Boston before you head out for the day.  For example, in Boston it can snow one day and be summer soon after.  Likewise in Beijing it can be healthy outside one day and toxic the next.

On my visit to the Great Wall the API suggested moderate outdoor exercise and no more. Any excess could be potentially harmful.  Obviously my adrenaline filled run did not fit into recommended activity.  However from my vantage point the skies were blue.  I didn’t see or smell anything unsavory.  Blinded by euphoria I took off running.

One never plans on getting sick during vacation, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid.  When a spontaneous sickness appears you just make the best of it.  My condition was not a deterrent – it was more of just an irritant.

My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China. The Forbidden City in Beijing, China. This was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1420 to 1912). It now houses the Palace Museum.
My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China. The Forbidden City in Beijing, China. This was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1420 to 1912). It now houses the Palace Museum.

Perhaps I should have known better.

On our flight into Beijing from Japan the skies turned from a bright blue into a stale gray haze as we descended.  The pollution was obvious from the air.  On the ground the sky looked a bit gray, but generally fine.  It can therefore be assumed that smog can be an invisible toxin.

Being a healthy, athletic adult I really did not take the warnings seriously.  I reasoned it was not as if I was working with something really toxic like asbestos.  Once again life has proved me wrong.

Many people, specifically Asians wear face masks specifically for smog.

Previously when I would see Asians wearing masks, I assumed they were hypochondriacs, afraid of acquiring some air borne illness.  They were plentiful on airplanes, trains and even just walking down the street.  Now I know the masks are also used to prevent inhaling dangerous toxins which can lead to respiratory infections like the one I had.

My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China. Seen are the Ming tombs, a collection of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming dynasty of China. The first Ming emperor's tomb is located near his capital Nanjing.
My Respiratory Infection in Beijing, China. Seen are the Ming tombs, a collection of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming dynasty of China. The first Ming emperor’s tomb is located near his capital Nanjing.

Luckily for me signs of my sickness passed after a few days.  Needless to say I did not partake in any outdoor calisthenics after my fast paced juvenile jaunt atop the Great Wall of China.  Maybe next time I should wear a face mask.

China is trying to cut back on pollution by shutting down factories.  In 2017 they released a plan to curb contamination by 15% per annum, with the hope to ameliorating this severe environmental problem.  Long term tourism will be greatly impacted if this plan does not work.  One would hope that countries would make plans to benefit it’s inhabitants rather than focusing on profits. Unfortunately we know this to not always be true.

Have you experienced any respiratory problems in China?

Please let me know in the comments!

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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