>> Allergic to the world
It's common for exchange students to have itchy feet about heading to a new country, although Lydia Botero literally felt the urge to scratch during her first week in Beijing last month. The 38-year-old Colombian student with a master's degree suffered dry eyes and an itchy face, which developed hives after just a few days in the city.
"I started to scratch a lot and [my face] started to appear red. I also had very itchy eyes along with the hives. I didn't know what it was. After some days it got a bit better, but [the hives] soon broke out again," she said.
Botero is one of many people whose allergies flare up during autumn when there are more allergens from plants in the air.
Struggles to adapt to Beijing
Dr Richard Saint Cyr, a physician of family medicine at Chaoyang district private hospital United Family Healthcare, noted autumn often results in an influx of patients suffering allergic reactions.
"Usually spring is much worse, but for some reason this year in Beijing ... more people have come in due to sneezing and itchy eyes," he said.
Saint Cyr predicted a lengthier autumn for Beijing this year, which isn't welcome news for those who suffer from allergies.
"We're having a longer, nicer autumn. This means more time for grass and pollen, which means more time for allergies caused by pollen and other articles in the air," he said.
Botero has never pinpointed the cause of her allergies, but she has ruled out food and cosmetics because she has maintained the same diet from when she studied in Denmark prior to arriving in Beijing.
She is hesitant to see a doctor due to concerns about the language barrier. Instead, she has tried to manage her allergies by applying moisturizer more often to prevent dryness and using eye drops to relieve redness.
"I think [the symptoms] might be associated with the dust and pollution outside," Botero said of her allergies. "I've recently started to spend more time indoors because I have begun studying harder, and I haven't had as many problems."
Dr Ibrahim Salahat, medical director of the International Medical Center Beijing, a private clinic that caters to expats, said that newly arrived foreigners in Beijing are often vulnerable to allergic reactions triggered by local food and the environment.