Is it possible I'm allergic to the water in Japan?
July 1, 2019 3:26 PM   Subscribe

So I'm living in Japan as a teacher. Got here a few months ago. And every time I get out of the shower, I'm rubbing my eyes and sneezing for a solid hour. It also happens when I go to local hotels so it's not just at home. I've had seasonal allergies before but not to water. Thoughts?
posted by rileyray3000 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it after coming out of the shower, or after drying your face / hair with the towel? Does it also happen (for example) when washing hands in a public washroom, or only the shower?

It's possible it could be detergent- or shampoo-related.
posted by Mchelly at 3:30 PM on July 1, 2019

Is it possible the water where you are is hyperchlorinated compared to what you're used to and you're having a reaction to the chlorine?
posted by jessamyn at 3:41 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

In the past my water allergies have been to mold which tends to live in humid places. Bathrooms are a particular offender. On your towel might be one such place. Also agree about detergents. And soaps, of course.

You could try sitting in the bathroom and running the shower without washing or getting in. That would tell you if it’s something in the air (mold, maybe chlorine) or if it’s a soap/detergent.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:50 PM on July 1, 2019 [9 favorites]

Also consider if you eat or drink anything habitually before you shower.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:51 PM on July 1, 2019

It's a really complicated question to answer.

As others mentioned, there are several possible culprits:

- chlorination
- mold in the bathroom
- detergent on your towel
- your shampoo (is it scented?)
- your body soap (is it scented?)
- change in humidity

The last one is important, since you've likely got the AC on. AC is quite dry, and changing suddenly to a warm, humid environment can trigger a histamine reaction.

On top of that, depending where you live, Japanese homes can be quite dusty. If you're in a built-up area, there might be pollution from factories and vehicle exhaust (or even from the Sakurajima volcano, which sends fine particulate and smog all the way to Kanto).

May and June can be kind of hot and dry and dusty, too, until the rainy season starts.

For me, the worst possible time of year in Japan is September and October, when various grasses bloom. The hayfever I get is intensely uncomfortable, made all the worse because Japanese allergy medications do not contain pseudoephedrine (it's banned in Japan).

Good luck!
posted by JamesBay at 4:31 PM on July 1, 2019

Allergy to cedar pollen is the most common allergy in Japan, and it seems very likely to me that all that pollen would find its way into the open water reservoirs of Japan in considerable amounts, and would need to be filtered out if the water is to be free of it.
posted by jamjam at 5:39 PM on July 1, 2019

I've had spells of sneezing *in* the shower and I blame it on the fine spray tickling the inside of my nose.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:40 PM on July 1, 2019

One potential issue might be with the way laundry is done here, with no dryers. Hanging towels to dry can be really tough during the rainy season, and you might be having issues with mold or mildew, but it might be something else, if it's also happening at hotels. Personally, though, I do find I end up with a pretty active runny nose after showering here, but I've never really given it much thought.

On the other hand, Japan is a font of seasonal allergy irritants. It's not just cedar, there's tons of ragweed and other hell pollens here. If you're hanging your towels out to dry, you might well be scouring your face with pollen you might be allergic to.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:21 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't doubt that it is the water.

When I moved to Japan I lived in a share-house in Osaka with a bunch of other teachers. A lot of the people with long hair complained that they would lose a ton of it after showering. A friend joked that Osaka gets Kyoto's waste-water.

A couple of moves later I ended up in a place in Kyoto where soon after moving in I received a note in the mail that was all in Japanese. I gave it to a friend to read and they told me it was warning me that there might be lead in the pipes. I don't know if they mail it out whenever someone new moves into a house or if I was just lucky to received it when I did. When I went to buy a filter all of the ones at the store highlighted that they could filter out lead.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:15 PM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

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