China pollution

'Beijing cough' an insult to capital, says doctor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 11:12am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 2:57pm

A top doctor has claimed that naming a chronic respiratory problem "Beijing cough" is an insult to the capital.

The condition, exacerbated in recent weeks by hazardous air pollution, was given its nickname by expats.

But Dr He Quanying of Peking University People's Hospital objected strongly to the term, saying it is impossible to link the symptoms to just air pollution, or one particular city. He, director of the respiratory department at Peking University People's Hospital, said the name "Beijing cough", which went viral on social media last week, had yet to make it into official medical lexicon.

"Before you can find clear evidence of a [causal link], using the term 'Beijing cough' is an extreme insult to Beijing," He told the Economic Information Daily. He said coughs could be caused by smoking, overeating, weather change and the flu season. Foreigners in Beijing often complain of a dry cough and itchy throat between December and April.

Professor Pan Xiaochuan, of Peking University's Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, said such coughs were not particular to Beijing. They are also present in other polluted cities, he said.  

Since air pollution started hitting record highs earlier this month, Beijing expats and locals alike have turned to social media to vent their grievances.

"'Beijing burning sensation' is more accurate," a Twitter user said. Another joked Peking cough had become more famous than Peking duck or opera. On Sina Weibo, a user said Beijing was the world's "cough capital". The density of health-threatening PM2.5, or particulate matters with a diameter of 2.5 microns, hit 400 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Beijing on Saturday.

A week before that saw the index hit 755. The World Health Organisation has a guideline mean level of 25 mcg.

Beijing Children's Hospital admitted over 800 children for nebuliser lung therapy in the last week, an above average increase.

Correction: an earlier version of the story erroneously attributed some comments by Dr. He Quanying to Professor Pan Xiaochuan in the 3rd and 4th paragraphs. The current version is the correct one.