Mar 22, 2018
As a scientist working in a university, my experiments took a backseat as students needed the equipment to finish their theses. But as soon as they were done, I was left with what little time there was before beating the fiscal year’s end. By the end of February, I’ve done about two weeks of overtime and it's taken its toll on my body. I started coughing and my nose was runny.
It’s quite embarrassing, too. One day we had a meeting with several collaborators. I found myself exiting the room because my coughing was getting out of hand. I couldn’t hold it in anymore as I constantly felt tiny scratchy things tickling my throat. My eyes are watery and I couldn't for the life of me stop myself from coughing. One of my Japanese seniors told me, “I think you have pollen allergy.” I vehemently denied it, thinking to myself, I’ve only been in Japan a few years! People take longer than this before developing allergies. I comforted myself, “It’ll all be gone when I finish my report”. Come first week of March, my presentation was done. I took a day off too. But my cough was getting worse.
So on my day off, I found myself in a random jibika (耳鼻科). The doctor confirmed it. I do have nasal allergies. I was prescribed antihistamines twice a day for two weeks. At the time of writing this, I’ve been through half of my pills. Looking back to the meeting, one or several collaborators must have bought some pollen with them to the room, as it was really the worst I’ve ever felt.
Over time, increased exposure to the pollen can lead to allergy development. Eyes can get itchy, noses can get runny, and the throat can get irritated. After a few days on the medicine, I could go out without a mask. However, when it’s a rainy day, even my mask can’t save me!
Among my fellow foreigner friends, the amount of stay in Japan before developing pollen allergies varies. Two of my friends developed the allergies in roughly 5 years, one friend only after 10 years here. Myself? Only after 3.5 years. Lucky.
So, I have one more week of antihistamines. Naturally, I can still work but I do feel a bit sluggish. And, I’m quite excited for winter to be over. I will have to accept that this is going to be part of my own experiences in Japan - being one of the many masked faces walking about during this time of the year.