While spring in Japan might seem like a time for cherry blossoms and warm weather, for allergy sufferers it means hay fever and everything that comes with it.
This year in particular, Japan seem to be unfairly hit by a harsh combination of high pollen counts along with the particle-laden smog (PM2.5).
Experts say Japan’s high pollen count is most likely due to the country planting countless cedar trees after WWII. And the PM2.5 smog comes from the Gobi Desert, where yellow dust picks up dirt and pollen from China and carries it over to South Korea and Japan. Put these two phenomena together, and this equals weeks of itchy eyes and running noses.
Here are a few examples of how people in Japan combat, or endure, the allergy season:
Wearing a face mask is the most common weapon used to fend off both illnesses and allergies. But just because you’re under the weather doesn’t mean you can’t look cute at the same time.
For years, companies have created lines of chic and stylish face masks so people can still look fashionable while covering up half of their face. A newcomer into mask fashion includes Australia’s Tecmask with its styles and patterns including, ironically enough, flowers, tartan and more.
If you are looking for practical rather than pretty, there are even masks infused with ostrich eggs, which scientists say help ward off diseases.
Sometimes surviving allergy season means more than wearing a mask but spraying yourself down to keep the pollen away.
Loft carries a spray is safe to use on your clothes, hair and face, and promises not to ruin your make up either. Feel free to coat yourself for extra protection.
Shiseido’s Ihada Allerscreen promises to block out 90 percent of pollen; one squirt gives you four hours of protection.
While it may not be comfortable, wearing Bio-International’s Pit Stopper nose plugs may be the most effective method for fighting allergies. People can wear the nose plugs underneath their face mask, but since the nose plugs have a transparent color, they’re stealthy. This might be the next best thing to holding your breath indefinitely.
Clothes and glasses
For those more concerned about their eyes than their nose, there are special glasses that help prevent itchy and watering eyes by blocking out pollen. One of the most popular brand of glasses are Jins, which slightly resemble goggles in order to keep out every spec of dust.
Other types of anti-pollen glasses usually resemble regular ones and come in fun designs including Hello Kitty, naturally.
Clothing companies are also introducing items that will help shield you from spring. This year Aoki released a new jacket that it claims will prevent pollen from clinging to your clothes, including down jacket and rain coat styles.
While some might rely on sprays, masks and clothes, more people are relying on medication to quell their allergies. According to MarketOptimizer, the allergy medicine industry in Japan is projected to grow from roughly $172 million in 2013 to around $688 million in 2018.
There are also medications available in Japan, including Claritin and Allegra, with certain versions available over the counter. The big selling point is antihistamine with the drowsy side effects.
While science tries to find a cure for allergies, technology is helping people cope. New apps such as Your City’s Pollen Information gives users a weather forecast-like map of the current pollen count and how it is expected to change throughout the day.
The website Weathernews.jp also has an interactive map that shows the pollen counts for all over Japan, so you can plan ahead if you should bring your sprays and masks.
No matter what you do, though. You’re probably going to sneeze, so you might have well treat your nose to the best. Nepia has a line of “adult” tissues, with a rather bizarre marketing campaign.
Allergy sufferers can also make the season a little bit more whimsical with items like the Mount Fuji tissue cover.
If you are fed up with the masks and medicine, surgery might be the best last resort.
Doctors are developing new procedures that use lasers to evaporate a layer inside the nose so there are fewer cells that can react to pollen and create mucus. There is also a procedure that improves ventilation in the nasal cavity allowing pollen to flow through rather than getting stuck and irritating sensors. In addition, a few clinics in Japan claim that they can perform such surgeries in less than one hour (recovery time not included).
Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Got any tips you care to share?