Hay Fever (Kafunsho) in Japan
What is "hay fever (kafunsho)" and 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, nasal congestion, eye irritation
The types of pollens that trigger allergic reactions are Japanese cedar, Hinoki cypress, and pine trees pollen. Of these three, the one most people have a reaction to is the Japanese cedar pollen.
In Japan, many people started to suffer from hay fever due to cedar pollen from around the 1960's. During that time, the Japanese government ordered a large number of cedar and cypress trees to be planted. Because these trees grow quite fast, the cost for materials for urban development and post war recovery, from World War II, became more affordable. It is assumed that the significant increase of pollen is due to the vast number of cedar and cypress trees, causing an increase in the number of people who suffer from hay fever.
Japanese cedar pollen can be found in the air from February through April. During this period, the number of people suffering 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, in newspapers, and on the internet.
Expect to see many Japanese people wearing a mask between February and April.
Protection methods against hay fever
1. Avoid pollen
Avoid going out on the days when more pollen is predicted to be in the air.
Here is a useful link for hay fever conditions and pollen forecast (the location in the link is set for Tokyo, if you live in a different city, ADD LOCATION and check your area) > Pollen count and allergy info by Weather.com
2. Prevent exposure to pollen
Glasses (Pollen Guard) : You can find glasses that avoid exposure to pollen.
Mask : You may want to find a high-density mask that fits the contours of your 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 are viable as well such as an ophthalmologist, pediatrician, dermatologist, a clinic for allergies, etc. depending on the symptoms.
If you find you are developing hay fever, it would be wise to take the preventive measures above, or to go see a doctor to get professional advice and medication to help you through this difficult season.
"Allegra" for allergic nasal 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)
Injection of 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.
- It takes a long time to have see results (it may take about half year to see results while receiving one injection per week)
- The treatment is limited to only the specific allergy
- There are few side effects reported
- The cost is low
- Medical insurance is applicable for the treatment.
Histamine injection (Histaglobin injection)
This treatment is called nonspecific hyposensitization. Unlike hyposensitization its purpose is not to provide immunity to one specific allergen through the injection of said allergen, but to inject histamine to raise your overall 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 does not cure hay fever, it only helps to reduce inflammation from hay fever. Various negative side effects can arise from steroids, and because of this 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 was approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which has potential to completely cure 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 was released for sale in October 2014, and treatment has already started at specialized medical institutions. This treatment is of course covered by medical insurance. Expectation for widespread use of this new medicine is becoming rising among medical specialists because there is no pain from injection to worry about, the burden on patients is small, there is no need to go to the hospital, and the side effects when compared to injection are lower.
It is recommended that you should consult with a specialized medical institution for further details about the medicine and possibility for treatment.
Here, at PLAZA HOMES, many of our employees also suffer from hay fever.
We have some measures of our staff use that help us through this season.
Measures against hay fever 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.