Pay Attention to Similar Symptoms of Hay Fever, Coronavirus Infection

This year’s hay fever season has begun. It is necessary to be more careful than in a typical year, as hay fever symptoms such as nasal congestion and fatigue are similar to early symptoms of infection with the novel coronavirus.

Due to the long rains last summer, not that much cedar pollen is said to have been generated this year. Nevertheless, the amount is expected to be 1.5 times to two times higher in the Kanto and Kansai regions compared with last year, when airborne pollen levels were low. It will be a depressing season for people suffering from hay fever.

The number of people who are allergic to cedar and cypress pollen is 30% to 40% of Japan’s population, so it is now considered a “national ailment” affecting the entire country. In past years, this would be a personal problem of suffering from uncomfortable symptoms, but this year there are fears that coronavirus infections could be confused with hay fever sufferers.

Nasal congestion and rapid, repeated sneezing can also occur when people are infected with the coronavirus. It is difficult to tell, just by observing the symptoms, whether these are indications of the coronavirus or of hay fever. By taking medication early and reducing hay fever symptoms, it will be easier to notice anything unusual.

Many people feel they are suspected of having the coronavirus, or are sensitive about how they are viewed by the people around them, when they sniffle or sneeze on trains and in crowds.

Recently, badges that say, “I have hay fever” are being sold to put on bags and masks. By controlling hay fever at an early stage, such misunderstandings can be avoided.

If you rub your eyes and nose because you feel itchy, the risk of being infected with the coronavirus increases, so it is necessary to take care to avoid such behavior.

The basic approach to hay fever is to keep pollen away. Fortunately, unlike last season, the shortage of masks has been resolved. It is important to make strict efforts to wear a mask, which also protects against the coronavirus. Washing one’s hands when returning home is another step that also helps fight the coronavirus.

One problem is ventilation, which is an essential part of countermeasures against the coronavirus. If outside air is brought indoors, pollen also comes in. It is vital to create an environment in which pollen does not drift in easily, by using air purifiers and humidifiers.

Frequent cleaning and washing are also effective. It is said that when you open a window, you can reduce the amount of pollen that comes in simply by using a screen or a thin curtain.

Another preventive measure is to not go out on a day, or at a time, when there is a lot of pollen in the air. Efforts should be made to employ countermeasures useful for both hay fever and the coronavirus, through such steps as altering one’s commuting time to arrive at work early in the morning when pollen levels are low, and checking forecasts and working at home on days when there is expected to be a large amount of pollen.

Although the “third wave” of the coronavirus infection has passed its peak, it is hard to say that the number of infected people has decreased sufficiently, especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is important to take precautions against the full-fledged hay fever season that is approaching, in which a lot of pollen will be dispersed, while also paying attention to the coronavirus.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 4, 2021.