It is no secret that Beijing is a particularly dry place to live compared with many other capital cities, especially in winter.
The weather may seem especially waterless at the moment, with the particularly parched conditions adding to one of the driest winters on record - the minor snowfall in Haidian district last month not being enough to really count.
Indoors, though, is where the problem particularly lies for many of us, as far as our health is concerned. With the significantly subzero temperatures outside and the heating on inside to combat the cold, we are exposed to substantially drier conditions than are deemed to be acceptable. The resultant low humidity can have an impact on our physical condition.
Dry air has several agreed effects on our general well-being. The first is that breathing dry air can cause respiratory problems including asthma, bronchitis and even nosebleeds.
General dehydration is commonplace and chances are, if you're waking up regularly with an itchy and sore throat in the morning, your overly dry apartment is behind it.
The humidity issue can also have consequences for your skin with symptoms ranging from mild irritation and itching to more severe conditions.
Equally, more an annoyance than anything else mentioned, dry air also increases the frequency of static electricity everywhere, including in your home.
These factors can all contribute to seeing the particularly dry and cold winter months as even more of a pain than they need to be, but what can be done about it?
Obviously, everyone has their own methods for dealing with some aspects of the climate, but as far as the indoor conditions are concerned, one of the more popular methods of reducing the problem would be to return the air to normal through using a humidifier.
The most common types of humidifier include vaporizers that use heat to release steam from the machine into the air, alongside cool-mist and ultrasonic humidifiers that produce a quantity of mist to release into the air of your home that will help improve the dry conditions.
Humidifiers can be picked up easily around Beijing ranging from the cheap and cheerful to the professional air quality enthusiast level. Generally the more expensive versions will have more features, like switching itself off when the required humidity has been reached.
To find out the humidity in your apartment, you can buy a hygrometer from many of the supermarkets or online for less than 100 yuan (much less for the simplest varieties). It is suggested that a comfortable measurement is somewhere around 40-50 percent.
Of course there are some possible downsides, namely with the cheaper varieties. Vaporizers can get very hot and therefore have the possibility to burn, especially a problem with young children in the home.
Some of the other types can negate their apparent health benefits if not cleaned regularly because they will disperse mould and bacteria into the air from the machine.
It has also been argued, especially in Beijing, that units without proper filtration systems may release components of the hard water into the air. Research is still ongoing, but tap water is not recommended for these units as a precaution.
Despite the possible issues with some models, it is certainly of great benefit to your general well-being to have a humidifier in your home, especially during these arid winter months, especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms expressed above. Any potential aid is welcomed.
(China Daily 01/26/2011)