Hay fever season hits Kanto earlier than usual

by Atsushi Kodera

Staff Writer

Hay fever season has arrived in the Kanto region to the dismay of people who every year suffer sneezing, runny noses and itchy eyes from “sugi” cedar or “hinoki” cypress pollen.

Weathernews Inc. said the allergy season arrived a week to 10 days earlier than last year.

The company said that on Jan. 24, more than 30 percent of its pollen counting devices installed across Tokyo detected a daily count of 10 particles of cedar pollen or more, the level that causes hay fever symptoms in sensitive sufferers. Two days later, about 90 percent of the devices in Tokyo detected that level of pollen.

Also last Sunday, about 20 percent of 1,450 people with hay fever in Tokyo surveyed by Weathernews complained of having “mildly nasty” or worse symptoms.

The devices also detected a rapid increase in the rest of the Kanto region, including Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Tochigi, Gunma and Ibaraki prefectures, the firm said.

However, lower cedar and cypress pollen counts than the average year are expected for most of the nation, the Environment Ministry reported Friday, although the numbers are expected to be higher than usual in Hokkaido and parts of western Japan.

That said, the ministry warned that “taking early countermeasures against hay fever is essential” as it sees this spring’s pollen release in many prefectures as exceeding levels for which “ample precaution for hay fever is called for.”

The pollen count will exceed 2,000 particles per sq. centimeter per day, the threshold where hay fever is considered to require “ample precaution,” in about 70 percent of the area from the Tohoku region to Kyushu, the ministry said.

Officials said exposure to pollen can be reduced by wearing normal glasses and a face mask, keeping curtains drawn when opening windows, wiping floors with a damp mop — a vacuum cleaner isn’t sufficient — drying laundry indoors and wearing polyester and cotton clothing.

Pollen levels have been up in many areas of the nation in the past few years, according to the ministry, and companies have been busy releasing new anti-allergy devices on the market.