Spring has come, pollen has come: Hay fever treatment in Japan


photo by Phil Norton

No one can deny that hay fever is a national disease in Japan. Itchy eyes and endless sneezes annoys you throughout a season. It is one of the common diseases in Japan that one in every 3 to four is assumed to have a pollen allergy condition. Unfortunately, it is not just the Japanese who become allergic to pollen in Japan. Many residents from overseas started having hay fever after they moved to Japan. Hay fever is not someone else’s problem as long as you live in Japan. To avoid having hay fever, or to improve allergic conditions if you already have it, what can we do?


Hay fever in Japan

Pollen allergy is one of common allergic conditions across the world, not only in Japan. Hay fever is triggered by pollen from trees, grass or other plants grow in the place including oak, poplar and ragweed. In Japan, the most common cause of hay fever is pollen from cedar and Japanese cypress trees. Cedar trees pollinate at its peak from February to April and Japanese cypress in March and April, creating cloud of pollen. These trees have been widely planted across Japan in order to supply building materials since early times. There are attempts to develop less-pollinating cedar and cypress to reduce the number of hay fever sufferers, however, outcome is yet to come as tree-planting normally takes a long period of time. Other than cedar and cypress, there are many more trees and weeds that cause pollen allergy conditions, such as alnus, Japanese apricot and rice.


Hay fever relief 1: Avoid allergens

Face mask

You may have been puzzled by seeing so many people wearing face masks when they go out. But wearing a face mask makes a great difference when it comes to relieving hay fever symptoms as hay fever is triggered by having a contact with pollen of plant.

Glasses and sun glasses

Hay fever glasses and sunglasses are available from online shops or optometry shops. Glasses and sunglasses with close fitting on the face effectively keep pollen from getting into your eyes and relieve itchiness.

Check pollen forecast

Pollen forecast is given in morning and evening news as part whether forecast during hay fever seasons. For example, the pollen levels in the air dramatically increase when weather is fine and dry while it drops in wet weather. It is important to refrain from going outside or hanging your washings and mattress outside when pollen levels is high.

Keep pollen from your house

Dust your outer wear before entering your house, wash hands, rinse your mouth and have shower immediately after getting home not to bring pollen inside.


Hay fever relief 2: Medicines

Non-prescription medicines

The first thing you may want to try to relieve pollen allergy conditions is non-prescription drugs. There are a variety of allergy medicines available from ordinary drug stores such as “Contac” and “Stonarhini”. Also, oriental medicine “Shoseiryuto”, which is not commonly used in western countries, is widely used to stop allergy rhinitis and hay fever symptoms. If your symptoms are light ones, you may survive pollen season with these medicines, allergy eye drops and nasal drops.

Prescribed medicines

If you have serious hay fever symptoms, don’t hesitate to visit a doctor. It is important to take medicine before allergic symptoms become severe. Consult a doctor to have prescribed medicines best for your condition.


Hay fever relief 3: Improve your diet

Eating a balanced and healthy diet is considered to provide great benefits to improve your allergic conditions. Fermented food that balance bacterial flora in the intestine including “natto” and yoghurt, banana, lotus root, mackerel, yellowtail, mushrooms and seaweeds full of dietary fiber are considered to improve your health. Alcoholic beverages that may cause liver diseases, coffee and spicy food are considered to aggravate allergic symptoms. The most important thing is to have a balanced dietary life without overly relying on few types of food.


Prevention is better than cure

Pollen season is an absolute nightmare for all hay fever sufferers. Sneezes and runny nose keep ruining your spring days. Unfortunately, you can’t be pollen free as long as you live in Japan, but early prevention can make it easier. Don’t be over optimistic about hay fever even though you are not allergic to pollen at this moment. You may get it anytime, so it is wise to avoid hilly areas during pollen season.


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あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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