I remember having polite chit chat with a Japanese coworker a few years back about the seasons in Japan, my coworker told me that she despised spring and dreaded it’s arrival, for one simple reason; hay fever. At the time I thought it was an odd statement to make and couldn’t sympathise with her at all, but as time’s gone by and my allergies have worsened, peaking at an all time horrendous level of suffering last year, I now fully empathise with her.
The longer you live in Japan the more likely you are to develop hay fever (so they say). Last Spring and Autumn were unbearable, to say on some days that I sneezed more than eighty times is not an exaggeration; my friends, students and co-workers are my many witnesses.
Teaching is not great when combined with severe allergies, the children think it’s hilarious at first, but after about ten sneezes I become an annoyance, my co workers are very sympathetic but it can’t be pleasant for them sitting in such close proximity to a sniffling mess. Those who suffer from it know it’s worse than being ill, so last spring I started a desperate bid to find a cure that would eliminate the misery (and anger) for good.
So for fellow suffers I’ve compiled a list of ways (and ways not) to combat hay fever. (I still suffer from some of the associated symptoms but in a much milder fashion) these include; prevention and lifestyle change, medicine to take and avoid and holistic options.
Prevention and lifestyle changes
Nasal laser surgery
A pricey option but with a good success rate. I inquired about this option in February of this year, but the doctor told me I was too late, the procedure should be done before the allergy season kicks in, so in either December or January. Thus if you suffer in Autumn too, remember to have the procedure in Summer. (Has this option worked for anyone?)
A biggie, with many illnesses you can make a big impact on your recovery by changing your diet. For hay fever probiotics are important and these can be found in yogurt, natto, miso and kimchi. Personally I have yogurt everyday and it seems to be helping. (You can also answer the age old Japanese question; can you eat natto?)
A sweeter option
The most appealing idea perhaps is a spoonful of honey everyday, studies have shown that for this to be effective, local honey should be taken. Japanese honey can be found easily in supermarkets.
This is an ancient Indian technique of nasal cleansing using warm salty water, I was introduced to this a few years ago by my yoga teacher and admittedly haven’t practiced it as much as I should have done. It has been said that people who regularly nasal cleanse, are not only immune from allergies but also the common cold and flu. Neti pots can be bought on the Internet, or in Japan a similar product is available in pharmacies (called ハナソア) which seems to work in a similar manner.
With any illness if there’s a holistic remedy then I would always opt for that, as the focus is on optimum health and wellness with little side affects. Here are some possible holistic options:
I tried acupuncture three times and didn’t see much change, but I was told it takes up to fourteen visits to have any lasting effect, which at 6,000 yen a go wasn’t feasible at the time, plus each session took up to an hour, time that couldn’t be spared regularly. If you have Interglobal health insurance you can claim back acupuncture treatment, so do your research, I wouldn’t rule it out but you need patience with this method.
Homeopathic tablets ‘A. Vogel Allergy relief’ has been recommended as a good choice, but you need to take two tablets three times a day 15 minutes before meals, which isn’t always practical.
Chinese medicine, 漢方
Chinese medicine, カンポウ can be sourced easily in Japan, but it costs a fair amount and takes longer than normal prescription medicine. Again Interglobal health insurance covers Chinese medicine but you’ll have to check if your one does.
If your symptoms are minor then I’d suggest giving the holistic options a try, but if your symptoms are severe and you’re looking for a quick fix then I’d suggest stronger medicine.
Prescribed & Over the counter options
I’ve spent a small fortune on various antihistamines, both from the UK and Japan, the ones in Japan I’ve tried are: アルシン、パブロン and アルガード. Unfortunately none of these worked for me and obviously can’t be claimed back through insurance so unless you’ve found the right one for you, I’d make a trip to your local GP.
I’ve tried a few different pills from the doctors, the first batch made me extremely drowsy; to the point that it affected my work. This was a combination of シングレア and フェキソフェナジン
The medicine I’m currently taking and has reduced my symptoms dramatically with no drowsiness is ザイザル、you take only one pill daily before bed. I’d recommend giving that a go to see if it’s right for you. My symptoms haven’t ceased altogether but they are much more manageable.
Always remember to carry tissues for those impromptu sneezing fits, try eye drops to sooth itchy eyes and mints to allay itchy mouths. I’m not keen on nasal sprays so I tend to avoid them but if they work for you, they can be found in most pharmacies.
Hope the above is useful for fellow hay fever suffers. Good luck in finding the remedy that works for you. 自分の体に合う薬を探してみてください。