Allergies in Japan - how to deal

[Updated Feb 14, 2012]

Are you headed to or living in Japan and wondering what to do about your allergies? I know the feeling. Mold and dust mites plague me, which are especially hard to escape in Japan. My second Autumn in Japan managed to debilitate me while allowing a little virus to invade my inner ear – labrynthitis.

Labryawha? It’s a deep inner ear inflammation. Makes you dizzy, lightheaded and generally unable to move. Some people get vertigo and motion sickness. Anyway, that's all aside the point - you can read the full story here.

*Note: This post is about nasal allergies and rhinitis, rather than food allergies. Please also note I am not a medical professional, and if you have severe allergies you should seek a doctor’s advice and appropriate medication and/or treatment.

Allergies are quite prominent in Japan – with a large number of those suffering primarily from pollen type allergies. So if you too suffer from rhinitis, you will find a very allergy-friendly (so to speak) country in Japan. A few ways to deal:

1. Wear a mask – Folks in Japan wear a mask for a variety of reasons, but most notably to keep allergies in check or to prevent the spread of whatever illness they might currently be carrying. Personally, I avoid wearing the mask because it annoys me, but just saying.

2. Allergy meds – I won’t go into too many specifics, as those with allergies probably already use specific kinds of medicine. My doctor in the U.S. primarily prescribed me Flonase (a nasal spray), which is available in Japan, so if you use Flonase, you can get a prescription here as well (and much cheaper at that, with the national health insurance). Whatever prescription you have in your home country or whatever OTC meds you use, bring the info to a doctor in Japan to find what you need (or a similar alternative). *Jeff in the comments noted you can get Claritin by prescription here in Japan. The Japanese pronunciation is: クラリチン.

3. Drink beni fuuki (べにふうき) – a very strong, concentrated green tea. The taste is quite bitter compared with regular green tea, because of the concentration, but studies in Japan have shown that those who drink it have less histamine response – due to the higher number of catechins. Available in supermarkets and online.

4. Use a neti pot – I’ve used it and still use it occasionally as it works quite well to clear and moisten the nasal passages. Google neti pot for more info.

5. Try Quercetin – a supplement made of an extract from apple and pineapple. Known to reduce the histamine response and boost immunity. I use it regularly and can say that it definitely works and has helped me immensely.

6. Buy an air purifier for your home - My husband and I bought one for less than 10,000 yen and it works marvelously – ours also doubles as a humidifier (handy for the dry winters).

Some of you might ask about over the counter meds, and I personally haven’t used many for my allergies. The antihistamine OTC drugs are often drowsy – very rarely can you get actual “non-drowsy” kind OTC. From what I have experienced the non-drowsy kind actually knock me out (like Benadryl does!).

So, those of you in Japan with seasonal/head allergies (mild, moderate, or severe), do you have any other tips or advice? (Be sure to also check out how to beat hay fever in Japan.)

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