How to Survive from Hay fever in Japan

You might have wondered why so many Japanese are wearing masks in this season. Today we have some answers for you.

Every year in Japan, the arrival of spring is also a sign of hay fever season.

While everyone is enjoying “Hanami” (cherry blossoms viewing), people like me who have pollen allergies are having a terrible time getting through this season. Hence, I have a love-hate relationship with this beautiful season. Hay fever season usually begin in late February and last until early May depends on what kind pollen each individual are allergic to.

What is hay fever?

Read on to find out more about it & ways to survive from it.


What is Hay Fever?


Hay fever is called “Kafunsho” in Japanese. It is a type of allergic reaction to pollen mainly from 2 native Japanese cedar trees which resulted from the post war reforestation program to create construction materials such as sugi tree and hinoki tree.


Pollen from cedar tree (see photo source below)




Symptoms of hay fever?

The most commonly affected areas are the ears, nose and throat and the symptoms could be as mild as dry throat, sneezing, runny/blocked nose, red eyes, water eyes & itchy eyes to as severe as fevers, headaches, disturbed sleep & the inability to concentrate.


How to differentiate hay fever & the common cold?


It is often mistaken as the common cold for  first timers. Some people are more sensitive to one of the 2 pollen types and experience the allergic symptoms earlier or later than others.

Please take note that even if you have not had any hay fever experience back in your home country, first timers to Japan might be at risk to get affected especially from the second pollen season onwards because it usually takes a few months of exposure to the pollen to become sensitized.

Hence, to play it safe, it is advisable to confirm diagnosis through a skin test or nasal provocation test from the Ear Nose Throat (ENT) clinics. You may find this link useful to find hospitals & clinics in Tokyo.


Ways to survive from Hay Fever?

Hay fever season starts between the end of January ~ May. According to Japantimes, studies show that 30 percent of all people in Japan are affected by hay fever.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure at the moment but a myriad of products are available to help get through this awful period and here are some simple precautions as daily routines during the pollen season.


(1) Wear a mask




Always wear a mask when you are outside. Mask spray is recommended as it is more effective to block unwanted particles.


(2) Set an air purifier indoors



If you are allergic to pollen, you should consider investing in a home air purifier as it traps particles including allergens like pollen. The price of air purifiers sold in Japan electronic stores vary depending on the functions. Sometimes it costs less than 10,000 yen especially during sales. I personally think that it is definitely worth the money.

Tips to buy air purifiers in Japanese electronics store:

Look for ‘空気清浄機’ (kuukiseijouki) = Air purifier in Japanese. ‘kuuki 空気‘ means air, ‘seijou 清浄機‘ means ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ & ‘ki ‘ means machine.


(3) Hang dry laundry indoors




In order to avoid pollen from getting all over your clothes, hang dry your laundry  indoors. However, for items that must be hung outdoors such as futon (Japanese style mattress), put on a cover over the laundry. You can easily get a futon cover from the stores like 100 yen shops.

Another alternative option would be the ‘clothes block’ spray, which also helps prevent pollen from getting all over your clothes!


(4) Wear glasses/ sunglasses outdoors




Although you may find that sunglasses are not that popular in Japan (which I have no idea why), wear glasses all the time when you are outdoors as it may help protect your eyes from pollen and getting itchy, watery eyes.

If you have irritated eyes, try to apply some anti-allergy eye drops as it helps to sooth your eyes. Anti-allergy eye drops are available at most of the pharmacy stores.


Disclaimer : The information above is based on personal experiences and thoughts. As the symptoms & precautions of hay fever may vary depending on personal health & body conditions, please consult with a doctor for better understanding.




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