Plum blossoms are blooming, cherry blossoms are either budding or blooming, depending on where you are in Japan, and various other types of trees and flowers are starting to show their spring colors. Graduation ceremonies are being held (or have already happened) all over Japan, as one year ends and another is about to begin.
Then there's the pollen. Hay fever season in Japan has also arrived. And if you have allergies, it might have already hit you hard (or will...). How do you get through allergy season in Japan? You'll find some ideas below.
A few words to know:
花粉症 かふんしょう kafunshou hay fever
花粉 かふん kafun pollen
アレルギー arerugii allergy
Now, a few ideas to help you survive hay fever season in Japan:
1. Wear a mask outside.Even if you didn't wear one in your home country, "do as the locals do" or "when in Rome..." or something like that. I personally can't stand wearing them, but I know some people who now like wearing them.
2. Use a mask spray.Apparently if you spray your mask with this stuff it makes the mask more effective at keeping unwanted particles out.
3. Try a "nose mask"(pictured below) It's basically something that you attach to the underside of your nose and each side goes in a nostril. It acts as a filter for pollen and other airborne particles.
4. Refill those allergy medicine prescriptions.It is possible to get Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec and Flonase (フルナーズ) in Japan - consult a doctor about possibilities. You could also try contacting Japan Healthcare Info if you're not sure where to look or who to ask. Some possible prescription non-drowsy or "mostly" non-drowsy meds in Japan include: Allegra (アレグラ), Claritin (クラリチン), Alesion (アレジオン), エバステル, Talion (タリオン), and Zyrtec (ジルテック). [Source]
You can get some over-the-counter anti-allergy medication, but most, if not all, are drowsy, and probably not as effective as those you can get by prescription. (Let us know, though, if you've found something that works well and isn't too sleep-inducing). Mmmfruit mentioned Zaditen as an option. David and I have both used Stonarhini (ストナリニ), and while David didn't get too drowsy, I felt like I had just taken a Benadryl (it knocked me out for hours). It claims to use less of the ingredients that make you drowsy, but it may be best to try it on a day you don't have to go out and do anything, just to see how your body reacts first.
5. Buy an air purifier for your home.We had a Zojirushi model that doubles as a humidifier, which cost less than 10,000 yen or so when we bought it a few years ago. Look for 空気清浄機 (くうきせいじょうき, kuukiseijouki). 空気 (くうき) means "air," 清浄 (せいじょう) means "clean" or "pure," and 機 (き), in this case, combined with the other two words/meanings, means machine. If you want one with a humidifier, look for 加湿機 also. You can find a bunch on Amazon Japan, but I also recommend checking your local electronics store for deals.
6. Hang dry your laundry indoors.Yes, it takes longer than hanging it out in the sun and wind, but if you want to avoid getting pollen all over your clothes. Or...
7. Put a cover over your laundry and/or futon if you hang them outdoors.The following is an example of a futon cover. 干し means drying, and 袋 means bag.
8. Take probiotics.I've read in English and Japanese that these little guys might help alleviate some allergy symptoms. Whether it will help or not, probiotics are still great to take for a variety of other health reasons. I take Kyo-Dophilus from Wakunaga, but there are many types. Yogurt, miso, natto, kimchi and other fermented foods are great sources of "good bacteria," or probiotics as well.
9. Try quercetin.This product, which is found naturally in apples, grapes and some other foods, helps balance histamine levels. I use it and find it actually does make a difference. You can find quercetin easily at iHerb [affiliate link].
10. Drink tea.Specifically, try one of these types: nettle tea (ネトル茶), beni fuuki (べにふうき, pictured below), tencha, or Chinese tea (甜茶), and gauva tea (グアバ茶). You can read this Japan Times article on nettle tea. Beni fuuki is a concentrated type of green tea, which means there are a higher number of catechins than regular green tea. According to this study, drinking beni fuuki one and a half months before the cedar pollen season resulted in fewer or less extreme allergy symptoms.
11. Try a "clothes block" spray.Supposedly helps prevent pollen from getting all over your clothes.
12. Try eye drops or anti-allergy eye drops.Personally I don't have experience with eye drops, but many people have told me they use them to help their irritated eyes. I also found some anti-allergy eye drops on kenko, though there aren't any reviews there. Cosme.net has a few and they seem all right. The price seems like a big drawback.
13. Use a neti pot.I've used it and still occasionally use it. Though uncomfortable at first, it really works to clean out your nasal passages, lessen your allergy symptoms and helps prevent you from getting sick.
14. Wear glasses/sunglasses when outside.I'm not sure why sunglasses aren't that popular in Japan, but I wear them all the time outside anyway. May as well help protect your eyes from pollen.
15. Know when the pollen is really bad.If you know when the pollen count outside is high, you can hopefully plan ahead (for example, not hanging out your laundry, not exercising outside that day, or planning to exercise in the evening, etc.) Check out how to find pollen counts in Japan for more.
Many of these ideas and some additional images I've pinned on my "Hay Fever in Japan (Kafunsho)" Pinterest board. If you're on Pinterest and know of additional product ideas to pin, let me know and I'll add you as a contributor to the board.
Lifehacker also recently posted an article on how to help control your allergies.
Do you have any additional ideas for how to beat hay fever in Japan? Please share with us below to add to the list!
Disclaimer: The above information contains general information about possible medical treatments for seasonal allergic rhinitis. This information is based on personal experience or personal research and should not be substituted for a doctor's advice. You must not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.