Spring is here and Japan is finally warming up. While this is a very welcome change from the cold months we just experienced it does mean the arrival of a lot of discomfort for anyone with pollen allergies. Thankfully there are a number of second generation non-drowsy antihistamines available in Japan, even OTC.
As always, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. If your symptoms are new or particularly severe it is always a good idea to visit a doctor to get checked out!
Fexofenadine (フェキソフェナジン), often known as Allegra (アレグラ) can be bought OTC in Japan, both the original Allegra brand or a typically less expensive generic version. Both are sold as 60mg tablets with an expected effectiveness of 12 hours. The larger 120mg sizes are not available, at least not OTC. You can get a prescription for Fexofenadine and if you have National Health Insurance (NHI) then it may work out to be less expensive than buying it OTC.
Epinastine (エピナスチン), more commonly known as Alesion (アレジオン) is also available OTC in Japan. You can get the original branded version as well as generics. In both cases they are 20mg tablets with an expected effectiveness of 24 hours.
Cetirizine (セチリジン), sold overseas as Zyrtec (ジルテック) is another second generation antihistamine that is available OTC in Japan. The original branded version is apparently available here but I have not seen it personally. Generics are a bit easier to find. The standard dose is 10mg which is rated for 24 hours.
Loratadine (ロラタジン), branded as Claritin (クラリチン), is not currently available OTC in Japan but it is available by prescription. If you are living in Japan and have National Health Insurance it will be affordable to visit a doctor and get a prescription if Loratadine is the antihistamine that works best for you.
Please note that it is illegal to have someone send you medicines that are only available by prescription in Japan. If the package is picked up by customs you will generally be fined 70,000yen for the violation. Certain types of drugs (especially stimulants like ADHD medicines) could result in much stiffer penalties, even jail time. Please check carefully before getting anything sent from overseas!
Eye Drops & Nasal Sprays
Epinastine (エピナスチン) eye drops are available in Japan by prescription. Speaking from experience these are extremely effective at relieving itchy eyes caused by pollen allergies. Generics may be available but the eye drops I have been prescribed have been Alesion (アレジオン) branded.
Fluticasone furoate nasal spray (marketed as Veramyst, Flonase Sensimist, and Avamys outside Japan) is available in Japan by prescription. Here it is marketed as Allermist (アラミスト). If you are having a particularly bad allergy day even after taking oral antihistamines it can quickly alleviate nasal symptoms.
Hopefully we can all enjoy spring weather without allergy discomfort!