Hay Fever Measures: Government, Business Must Fight ‘National Disease’ Together

Cedar pollen has begun to spread. People with cedar pollen allergies account for 40% of the nation’s population, and the number has been increasing rapidly in recent years.

It is no longer sufficient to leave measures against hay fever to individual efforts. Government and business must also cooperate with each other, and society as a whole must promote multifaceted efforts.

Last year, the government set a goal of reducing man-made cedar forests, which cause hay fever, by 20% in 10 years. This fiscal year, the government reportedly has designated areas where it will focus on cutting down trees in man-made forests and replanting them with saplings of species that produce less pollen. It is hoped that reducing sources of pollen will steadily progress.

As part of hay fever measures, the advisory system on the airborne pollen count has been changed from four levels to five, with “extremely high” added at the top. The Environment Ministry is urging people to avoid outdoor activities on days when the pollen count is “extremely high” and for companies to make use of telecommuting.

Minimizing exposure to pollen as much as possible is the first step in preventing serious symptoms. It is reported that only about 20% of all companies still allow telecommuting on days with high pollen counts.

Severe symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose and poor concentration could reduce work efficiency. If the severity of these symptoms can be prevented by devising new ways of working, the introduction of teleworking programs may be worth considering.

In recent years, the concept of employees’ health as an important issue for corporate management has been gaining wider acceptance. It is hoped the number of companies that take measures against hay fever will further increase.

For these measures to bear fruit, it is essential that each individual pay attention to pollen levels and take suitable precautions.

Masks and glasses are a must when going outside. It is also effective to refrain from hanging laundry and futon bedding out to dry during the season. When returning home, it is advisable to brush off any pollen that may be on one’s clothing and hair outside of the front door before entering the house.

At the same time, it is essential to make sure that appropriate medical treatment is available.

There is a treatment called “sublingual immunotherapy” that is not just a treatment of symptoms but a complete cure. This is a method of changing one’s body chemistry by gradually taking allergy-causing substances over a long period of time. However, the rapid increase in the number of patients has led to a shortage of the medicine used in the treatment.

Manufacturers are urged to speed up the production of the medicine. Government support is also important for increasing production capacity.

This year, the onset of cedar pollen season has accelerated nationwide due to the warm winter, and the pollen count is expected to match or exceed that of an average year. Efforts to minimize the impact of the pollen should be made at every level of society with the aim of ultimately conquering Japan’s “national disease.”

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 28, 2024)