Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Onion Prevention?

As concerns about H1N1 brew around here, the talk has turned to... onions. Many of the Chinese teachers at school have been bringing in onions, cutting them in half, and leaving them out in offices and classrooms. (This has been happening most in the primary school, so neither of us have dealt as closely with this.) After some confusion and cultural misunderstanding on the part of the expat teachers here, it was cleared up that Chinese tradition has it that onions can help to ward off the flu. This was clarified by an email sent out by the administration to all of the teachers today, advising us to put onions out for this purpose and explaining that this tradition started long ago when an onion farmer was able to keep his village safe from sickness. Apparently, the belief extends to garlic, too. (In fact, there are reports of some towns in China running low on garlic supplies as people are buying them up.) Could be a fragrant few months!
To be on the safe side, though, most of the students have also been immunized and daily temperature checks are made as they walk into the school.


  1. I think there are many layers of meaning to this tradition.

  2. I'd heard about that. I did a little research . . . turns out it's an "urban legend" that dates back to the 1500s and the bubonic plague. Maybe if everyone ATE the onions . . .? Sauerkraut was seriously supposed to be helpful against avian flu.

    Ha! That's my public health perspective for the day.