Big city ailments

Many people become ill at this time of the year when the weather becomes cooler. But medicines may not be the answer because some of the problems are not caused by viruses, bacteria or the climate. Instead, it is the way of life in a big city that makes us sick.

Easy tips for a urban healthy lifestyle

The stress and the hustle and bustle of the city are blamed for many health problems. But do not reach out for pills as there are better remedies.

ON your way to school by bus or train today you may have sat next to a person who sneezed, sniffled and coughed all the way. The changing weather is a cause for such ailments, especially respiratory diseases. Medications sold in pharmacies can help relieve coughs, colds and other ailments. If the problem is serious, doctors can prescribe medicines or administer an injection. But there are other health issues that are best remedied by a change of diet or adjusting the way of living. Children may easily suffer from allergic rhinitis (鼻敏感), canker sores (口瘡), insomnia (失眠) and eczema (濕疹). For such ailments there are remedies apart from medication.

When your nose is itchy and blocked

Problem: Allergic rhinitis (鼻敏感)

Symptoms: sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose, blunt sense of smell

Reasons: our eyes and nose are allergic to dust, fungus, hair or fur. In Hong Kong and other congested cities, air pollution is serious. Also, we often stay in air-conditioned places where the air circulation may be poor.

Prevention: it is hard to completely avoid allergens. But we can reduce the risk by cleaning the dust filter of mouldy air conditioners and keeping our rooms clean to prevent dust accumulation.

Remedy: wash your nose frequently. Applying mint is a cheap and natural way to soothe nasal congestion. Drink peppermint tea or dab two drops of peppermint oil under your nose.

When talking becomes hard

Problem: Mouth ulcers

Symptoms: painful white ulcers in the mouth, lips or cheeks

Reasons: stress, insufficient rest, an unbalanced diet and a lack of Vitamin C. A University of Hong Kong study found that more than 90 percent of respondents struggle with the blisters.

Prevention: Avoid eating too much fried and oily food, eg, French fries.

Remedy: Eat more fruit that are rich in Vitamin C. Watermelons are ideal. Although grapefruit has loads of Vitamin C, it can actually make the problem worse because it is sour. For those with a sweet tooth, a cup of ice cream does help!

When sleep is just a dream

Symptoms: difficulty in falling asleep and waking up at night, daytime fatigue, a short attention span and poor memory

Reasons: stress and poor sleep habits. Many students worry about their academic results. Many also watch TV, play video games or surf the internet. The light from the screens can affect our sleep.

Prevention: do not drink coffee and tea in the afternoon as these caffeinated drinks can keep us awake when we should be sleeping. Avoid using your mobile phone or computer 30 minutes before bedtime. Also, use your bed as a place to rest and not for work or meals. Do not exercise at night as it will keep you awake.

Remedy: bananas, cherries and milk contain substances to relax our muscles or calm us down. Take some of these items 30 minutes before going to bed. Sniffi ng lavender essential oil about 10 minutes before sleep can make you feel energetic the next morning.

When you are itching to scratch

Problem: Eczema (濕疹)

Symptoms: itchy and dry skin with redness and swelling

Reasons: the hot and humid climate and the dirty air in Hong Kong affect children’s immune system.

Prevention: about 10-15 percent of all children in Hong Kong may have eczema, and 90 percent of them are younger than five years old. Because eczema is caused genetically or environmentally, it is diffi cult to prevent.

Remedy: do not scratch dry or red skin. Instead lather the skin with a suitable and natural body lotion. Avoid eating allergens including beef, seafood, eggs and peanuts. Drink more water to keep the body moisturised.

LS tips

Learn more about other common physical health problems of Hong Kong children by going to the website of the Student Health Service (