What is “hay fever (Kafunsho)”?
Why do so many people suffer from hay fever in Japan?
Pollenosis (commonly referred to as “hay fever”): allergic reactions triggered by pollen
Symptoms of hay fever: sneezing, runny nose, nose congestion, eye irritation
The types of pollens that trigger allergic reactions are Japanese cedar, Hinoki cypress, and pine trees pollen. Out of all of these, the most significant one is known as Japanese cedar pollen.
In Japan, many people started to suffer hay fever from cedar pollen from around 1960. Around that time, the Japanese government ordered a large number of cedar and cypress trees to be planted. These trees grew fast and were affordable materials for urban development and the post war recovery of World War II. It is assumed that the significant increase of pollens due to such efforts caused this increase in the number of people who suffer from hay fever.
Japanese cedar pollen is in the air from February through April. During this period, the number of patients who suffer from hay fever increases drastically. In Japan, it is assumed that approximately 25 million people suffer from hay fever. Sometimes it is said that not one Japanese person doesn’t know someone who is affected by it.
During this season the pollen quantity is forecasted everyday along with the weather on TV, newspaper and internet.
Expect to see many Japanese people wearing a mask between February and April.
Hay Fever Season in Japan – Pollen Dispersal Forecast for 2016
Protection methods against hay hever
1. Avoid pollen
Avoid going out on the days when more pollen is predicted to be in the air.
Check >> http://weather.yahoo.co.jp/weather/kafun/detail/44131/#!pref/13
The link above is the pollen forecast around Tokyo updated daily by Yahoo.
Although it is only in Japanese, you can check the pollen quantity by the color codes.
Blue: little Green: some Yellow: a lot Orange: extremely a lot Gray: no information
2. Prevent exposure to pollen
Glasses : You can find glasses that avoid exposure to pollen.
Mask : You may want to find a high-density mask that fits the face tightly. The triangular shaped ones might help you breath more easily.
You can find such masks at any pharmacy.
3. Moderate the symptoms by medication
Medication : Get prescription medication
Consultation at a hospital :
Many people consult with an ear/nose/throat clinic or just a normal family doctor. Other medical institutions can be options as well such as an ophthalmologist, pediatrician, dermatologist, a clinic for allergies, etc. depending on the symptoms.
>> Bilingual Medical Institutes in Tokyo >> /info/hospital/
If you find you are developing hay fever, it is advisable to take the preventive measures above, or to go see a doctor and get professional advice and medication to help you through this difficult season.
“Allegra” for allergic nose congestion contains the same ingredients and amount as prescription medication; which you can get without prescription at a pharmacy.
It doesn’t cause drowsiness. It is advised to start taking the medicine roughly 2 weeks before pollen dispersal starts.
Ex.) Aneton Almedi decongestant tablet
These medicines help soothing sneezing and runny nose and decongest developed due to hay fever, house dust, etc.
4. About injection treatment for hay fever:
There are various hay fever treatments, and one of them is the premeditated injection treatment by a doctor. It is recommended especially for a person who is suffering seriously or who wants to expect a complete cure.
The following injection treatments are currently provided by medical institutions. It is recommended that you consult with a doctor for appropriate treatment.
Allergic material injection (Hyposensitization)
Injecting a specific allergic material (allergen) such as cedar pollen, and increasing the injection amount of the allergic material, consequently raises immunity and prevents symptoms of hay fever. Disadvantages are 1) it takes a long time to have curative effect (it may take about half year to have curative effect with one injection per week); 2) the treatment is limited to only the specific allergy. Advantages are 1) there are few side effects reported; 2) the expense is low; 3) medical insurance is applicable for the treatment.
Histamine injection (Histaglobin injection)
This treatment is called nonspecific hyposensitization. Unlike hyposensitization it is not to inject a specific allergy material such as cedar pollen, but to inject histamine which raises general immunity. Treatment methods vary by hospital, and generally 3-12 injections within 1-2 week time span may significantly control an allergic reaction for about 3-4 months. Side effect risks and the expenses are similar to hyposensitization.
Please note that Steroid Injections work to reduce every allergic reaction and seem to show great improvement of symptoms, but it is not a medicine to cure hay fever but only to reduce inflammation from hay fever. Various negative side effects arise from steroids, and so it is not recommended by the Oto-rhino-laryngological Society of Japan.
5. About the latest therapeutic drugs for hay fever
On January 17, 2014 a new medicine has been approved by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which has potential for a complete cure of the cedar pollinosis. It is called Sublingual immune therapy medicine “CEDARTOLEN® “. The new medicine is epoch-making in its method of treatment because you only drop the medicine solution under the tongue like eye-drops, wait for two minutes, and just swallow it. Clinical trials show that a suppressant effect of symptoms can be seen after one and a half years of one dose per day. This treatment is available for patients who are 12 years or older and the treatment needs to be administered for 2-3 years.
The medicine has been released for sale in October, 2014, and treatment has already started at specialized medical institutions. Of course this treatment is covered by medical insurance. Expectation for widespread use of this new medicine is becoming higher among medical specialists because there is no pain of injection and the burden on patients is small; there is no need to go to the hospital; and the side effects of injection can be reduced.
It is recommended that you should consult with a specialized medical institution for further details of the medicine and possibility for treatment.
At our company, PLAZA HOMES, many employees also suffer from hay fever.
We have some measures of our own that help us through this season.
Measures against hay cever practiced by PLAZA HOMES employees
● Do not hang laundry outside (because pollen will be attached)
● Shake off pollen from jackets, hair, etc. before entering the house or office. Do not bring the jacket in to the
bedroom or living room because it is likely to have some pollen. Ask other family members and colleagues to
do the same.
● Gargle and wash the eyes with eye drops when returning home.
● Clean the A/C filters frequently
● Avoid going to areas where pollen will be flying densely but travel instead to areas with little pollen such as
Okinawa or overseas.
● Use a high-spec air cleaner around the desk in the office and use it exclusively.