Fighting Hay Fever in Japan

By on February 13, 2018

This time of year, the pharmacies are rubbing their hands together whilst we are rubbing our eyes, that is if you are one of the 20 million plus sufferers of hay fever here in Japan.

For families throughout the country, the start of the nightmare season where we are reduced to snivelling, crying wrecks and the tissue expenditure in households increases ten fold in the coming weeks. Boys, girls, men, women, even the monkeys here in Japan are prone to the pollen invasion.

Hay fever, or kafunsho, occurs when your immune system overreacts to ‘allergens’. Don’t underestimate these normally harmless airborne particles, every year they cause school exams to be failed and companies to  falter. 

Thanks to the combination of massive mismanagement of Japan’s forestry depatment and global warming, huge forests of cedar trees, covering 15% of Japan are now pollinating at an increasingly rapid rate. Add to this the effect of agrochemicals and our changing diet, and the number of suffers is rising faster than the yen. No one really knows why but when we encounter these protein packages of pollen via our respiratory system, our bodies tend to overreact.

A visit to the doctor will get you a pocketful of antihistamines that block the histamine receptors and thus suppress our allergic reactions. However, heavy side effects such as drowsiness are common and for once dropping off in the classroom may be excusable. Antihistamine nose sprays steroid nose sprays, and eye drops all help but what else can we do? Well, the answer my friends, is blowing in the wind.

It’s hard to avoid the heavily pollenated air except to leave our asphalt covered capital and relocate to Okinawa or Hokkaido. Pollen levels are lower and the terrain naturally prevents the pollen from being airborne. Alternatively, clean the air around you. Negative ion generators are all the rage. Ions are said to reduce the number of airborne particles around you and stimulate your cilia, the little hairs that keep them out of your sinuses and nose.

Then there is immunotherapy, better known as allergy shots, designed to help the immune system develop a tolerance to pollen by exposing the body to tiny amounts of it over time.

Blasting away the cells on the lining of the nose that release histamine when they come in contact with pollen, is another quick and painless operation, but the smell of burning flesh from this laser treatment means it’s not for the faint hearted. 

You can go homeopathic and ingest the very root of the problem. By taking bee pollen and unprocessed honey, you can meet the problem head on.

Stinging nettle (‘irakusa‘) is said to slow down the production of histamine, so wash the pills down with Ten-cha, a type of Japanese tea available from  the convenience store.

Increasing your Vitamin C intake. This naturally lower histamine levels and supports the adrenal glands in their production of allergy-fighting hormones.

Diet plays its part too. Cut down on your family’s saturated fat and sugar intake; eat lots of fruit and vegetables, fish, garlic, ginger and olive oil as they reduce inflammation, the root cause of many symptoms of a hayfever attack.

If these don’t do the trick then it’s really time to gear up, chose your weapons. Essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, cedarwood and pine are useful for aiding de-congestion. A pair of glasses creates a  barrier for those irritable eyes, and of course there is always the mask. New specially formulated compressed paper masks, super snug fitting and emblazoned with cute designs can be your best defence.

Kafunsho does not discriminate so go arm yourself accordingly, be thankful for the invention of lotion tissues and may the force be with you.


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