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Tokyo may enter hay fever season as early as this week due to warm winter


TOKYO -- This year's cedar pollen allergy season is predicted to start earlier than usual in Japan due to the warm winter, with some hay fever sufferers already sneezing.

    According to the weather information company Weathernews Inc., cedar pollen in Tokyo and other areas may exceed the threshold for the "start of dispersion" as early as this week, marking the start of the sneezy season. The number of hay fever patients visiting medical institutions has already been increasing, and a doctor in the capital is calling for early countermeasures, saying, "By taking proper medication from an early stage, the peak of symptoms can be kept to a minimum throughout the season."

    Iwao Yamashita, chairperson of Yamashita Medical & Dental Clinics, which operates two clinics in Tokyo, said that he began to see patients complaining of hay fever symptoms in early January this year, adding, "I thought it was a cold considering the time of year, but it turned out to be pollen allergies. My impression is that it is a few weeks earlier than usual."

    Small amounts of cedar pollen have already been detected in the Tokyo air. In Weathernews' nationwide online survey, a total of 53% of respondents, excluding those who do not have a pollen allergy, said that they felt the pollen "quite a bit" or "a little" as of Jan. 25. This is in line with the results for Feb. 2 in a similar survey last year.

    According to Weathernews, the "start of dispersion" in Tokyo is Feb. 7 in a normal year and was Feb. 12 in 2023. But this year, higher-than-normal temperatures are expected to continue until around Feb. 1, and the pollen amount may soon exceed the threshold. Due to the warm winter, "the start of pollen dispersal will be earlier than normal almost nationwide," the company anticipates. Parts of the Kyushu, Chugoku and Tokai regions are expected to enter the hay fever season in early February, and Osaka and Kyoto in mid-February.

    Full-scale cedar pollen dispersion is estimated to begin in mid-February or later in many parts of Japan. Although the amount of airborne pollen will be lower in many areas than last year, when it was extremely high, it is expected to be on par with or higher than normal nationwide.

    What measures can be taken to prevent pollen allergy patients from suffering this season? Yamashita pointed out, "It's important to start taking medication as soon as symptoms begin to appear, and the key is to deal with hay fever in the first half of the season." He added that by starting appropriate treatment in the early stages, it will be easier to control symptoms in the latter half of the season.

    (Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Lifestyle, Science & Environment News Department)

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