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11 ways to beat the pollution in Shanghai

Get a mask that works

Those surgical masks are doing nothing for you or your lungs – they‘re designed to stop germs getting out of your mouth, so are actually protecting the pollution from you, not the other way around. Worse, some fraudsters just got busted for selling fake 3M masks around town last week. Instead, you need to get yourself a mask you can trust and with a high number on the anti-haze index (an N90 mask for example, filters out 90 percent of harmful particles).

See our website for a round up of the best pollution masks to buy.

Order in... basically anything

Why risk going outside at all when you can get all manner of wonderful things delivered to your home, from an all-inclusive Haidilao hotpot to a hand-made cocktail? Or perhaps you'd prefer an in-house massage (legit of course), or a visit from a roving manicurist? We live in Shanghai, after all, where almost anything is possible. You can even get somebody to come pamper your pooch. All while drinking a bottle of wine from our fave booze-friendly app, BottlesXO.

See our blog for more details on these services.

Explore the great indoors

Being stuck inside doesn’t have to be a total drag. Shanghai, for its sins, is absolutely stuffed to the gills with buildings, and some of them have absolutely brilliant things to do inside of them. Case in point: bubble football at Jinqiao Arena, where you run around an indoor football pitch wearing a giant plastic bubble suit (which even serves as extra protection against the nasty pollution... well maybe, it can't hurt anyway).

Get fit without leaving the house

One would think that being cooped up indoors might mean your fitness regime would suffer. Not so – click 'Read more' at the bottom of this message for a guide to a raft of exercises to keep you in tip-top condition without ever having to step outside.

Buy an air purifier

Ensure your home is a haven of health by investing in an air purifier – and there are a few on the market that won't break the bank, including the quirky-looking Danish-made 'egg' appliance Nathöme LED Aroma Purifier for 299RMB, a DIY 'Smart Air' number for just 200RMB, and the portable Air-O-Swiss Travel Star Humidifier at 279RMB. See our blog for full details.

Suck it up at an oxygen bar

If you’re jonesing for some fresh air right now (and who could blame you?) then we can tell you where they keep the good stuff – Revita Life Station, a joint which deals in fresh air. This is because it’s an oxygen bar. You’ll have to pay for it, mind you: 40RMB will get you a ten-minute hit, 70RMB for 20 mins and 100RMB for 30 mins.

Download an AQI app

There are a number of good AQI apps out there, but we highly recommend China Air Quality Index, which allows you to select a city, displays readings for both the official government monitors around town and the US Consulate stations (where applicable) as info bars or on a map, and sends you push notifications whenever there is a major change in conditions.

Camp down at a botanical garden

Shanghai has two botanical gardens to choose from for your natural pollution solution. Chenshan Botanical Gardens is the larger and newer of the two, and features a series of classical Chinese-style gardens within its massive 200 hectare site. But our top pick is the Shanghai Botanical Garden: after paying the 40RMB entrance fee, get straight to the five-storey tropical house to enjoy your private rainforest oxygen supply.

Catch up on some culture

Regard your confinement as an opportunity to replenish your dinner party conversation starters. Stock up on some of the best books about China, as chosen by our expert panel of literature buffs. Take your pick of the 20 best fiction or non-fiction books, depending on how long you're likely to be holed up inside and how serious you feel. See for full coverage.

Eat right, eat broccoli

We were once told that broccoli (and Vitamin C in general) helps the body repair from exposure to pollutants; since then, we've been breathing deep and eating it every day. Although evidence on the ground is a little light, there is a study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that beverages made from broccoli sprouts enhance detoxification of air pollutants. Close enough, we thought for a brief moment, but turns out the sprouts and the broccoli head have different nutrient make-ups – best to eat both and cover your bases.

Run away

If all else fails, the only guaranteed way to escape the smog is to admit defeat, pack a bag and get the hell out of here. And there are plenty of potential getaways to give your lungs the long weekend they deserve.

If you’re looking for weekend getaways not far from Shanghai, perhaps relaxing by Dongqian lake or staying in the mountain greenery of Moganshan can tickle your fancy. A little further afield, you’re sure to find clean air in Tibet (although this may not be the best place to find oxygen in abundance).

If that still isn’t enough to escape the pervading plume, why not treat yourself to a weekend in the Perhentian islands of Malaysia? Can't you smell that sea air already? Oh no, wait, sorry – that's pollution.

Find details on all of these destinations at