There are many great aspects to living in Saigon, but the air quality is not one of them. The ever-present haze of air pollution in Saigon may be the cause of many a beautiful sunset, but it can also be pretty unhealthy and cause health problems later in life. And the sad truth of the matter is, it is probably only going to get worse during the next few years or decades. Because you need to know how to protect yourself when the air pollution levels are particularly bad, we’ve put together this brief list of important tips.
Buy a REAL facemask
You’ve undoubtedly noticed that the Saigonese method of choice for protecting against air pollution is wearing facemasks. The thing is, the masks don’t actually do much, according to science. There are a lot of sizes of air pollution particles floating around, and the flimsy fabric masks sold by the side of the road in Saigon only block out the largest of them. No mask will actually block out 100% of the pollution around, but a filtered mask will block out around 95% of what’s in the air.
The good news is, these masks are readily available in Saigon if you know where to look. They also make you look like a badass — a small metal filter attached to the fabric making up the mask makes you look like you walked out of a science-fiction film, without being too obtrusive. The bad news is, they are more expensive than the ones you buy streetside. Whereas a streetside mask may cost you 5.000 VND, a 10-pack of disposable filtered masks that will last you for about 25 hours of wearing time each will run you 350.000. A non-disposable filtered mask will cost closer to 750.000.
Don’t exert yourself
Remember that rigorous physical exertion leads to heavy breathing, which in turn leads to more inhalation of harmful particles. This is something to be avoided when the air pollution is particularly bad. Also remember that inside air pollution is generally just as bad or even worse than outside air pollution. After all, where do you think the air inside comes from?
If you really have a jonesing for some exercise, do it between the hours of noon and 6:00 pm. Air pollution tends to be less harmful during the heat of the day.
Don’t spend a lot of time in high-pollution areas
Most of us have to go outside at one point in the day, and it is good to avoid the high pollution areas when doing so, especially if the air quality is bad that day. Possibly the most obvious example of these high-pollution areas is that of busy streets, where exhaust fumes are plentiful and a high density of motorbikes keeps the air from circulating as well as it could otherwise. Another prime example of a high-pollution area is an “urban valley,” a phrase scientists use to denote an area lined on either side with tall buildings. Like in heavy traffic, it is more difficult for air to circulate in these places, which causes a sort of greenhouse effect that makes air pollution much worse.
Make your home a clean air space
As we mentioned above, indoor air pollution is often just as bad as outdoor air pollution in Saigon. The good news is, you have a lot more control over the air quality in your home then the air quality in the outside world, And there are a lot of steps you can take to clean up the air quality in your house.
The simplest step you can take is to open the doors in your house, especially the doors to your bathroom and your kitchen. This lets the air circulate, and it keeps harmful particles from building up in the air at any one place.
Another easy step you can take is buying air-purifying plants, such as peace lilies, aloe vera, rubber plant, and ivy. This option is just as aesthetically pleasing as it is healthy, so it is highly recommended.
One of the most effective steps you can take, although it is a bit more expensive than other options, is to buy an air purifier and put it in your home. The best place for a purifier is in the bedroom of a child or an elderly person, as they are the ones with the most fragile respiratory systems.
Drink herbal tea
This may sound like nothing more than a folk remedy, but drinking herbal teas really helps in expelling toxins from your body. Green tea, tulsi, ginger, and cinnamon are a few of the most effective types of tea you can drink to combat poor air quality.
The herb infused steam wafting off of hot tea is also great for an irritated respiration system, so go with hot tea instead of iced.
Choose wisely the times you spend outdoors
Believe it or not, time of day has a lot to do with how bad air pollution is outside in Saigon. As a rule, the hours between noon and 6:00 pm are generally the “cleanest” part of the day. Without getting into too much science talk, the decreased air pollution during mid-day is due to two main reasons: one is that people tend to use a lot more energy at night and therefore contribute to air pollution, and the other is that cooler weather traps air pollution lower to the Earth. Fun fact, air pollution is also significantly worse during winter months, since the pollution is pushed close to the ground.
Unfortunately, there is no way to protect yourself 100% from the poor air quality in Saigon. In addition to adopting some of these tips, however, you can protect yourself as much as possible by adopting some longer-term solutions that help your body become less sensitive to polluted air. For example, you could see a physical therapist and get some specialized exercises to help your lungs, or you could adopt a Mediterranean diet to build up your resistance. The bottled air from Canada available online will, unfortunately, not help much.
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