Masks off, plugs in: New allergy tools go inside the nose
When people sing the praises of Japan’s four seasons and their motifs, spring is all about sakura. But for the sniffly, runny-eyed 13% of Japan’s population with kafunsho (hay fever), spring is the dreaded allergy season and the sugi is the only tree that matters. The fast-maturing cedars were planted en masse in the 50s for their wood and now blanket the country in misery-inducing pollen that sends millions running from February to April for piles of pills, gallons of anti-itch eye drops and mountains of masks.
Though the pollen counts are supposed to be only about half as bad as last year, morning weather forecasts still include daily pollen count maps dotted with teary, scrunched-up cartoon faces.
Allergy sufferers may try anything for a little fresh air: electronic purifiers that claim to cleanse vast areas or portable ionic purifiers that hang from the neck. Cosmetic and supplement maker DHC sells an anti-pollen “Double Blocking Mist” for spraying on fabric that the company says sells out every year.
Many keep it simple, though. Last year, surveys showed that paper masks were the go-to pollen protector for some 60% of allergy sufferers. Could it be that this year, after a long winter of swine-flu precautions and mask hysteria, people have had it with the ER look?
This spring, shelves are stuffed with nose-baring alternatives. Last month Pulse covered the Hanablo hoopla that preceded allergy season. A swab up the schnoz of the non-medicated gel is supposed to block out pollen and dust for four hours.
With a heavy push from retailers such as Tokyu Hands, Bio-International repackaged and relaunched Nose Pit and Nose Pit Stopper this year, “the world’s first invisible anti-allergenic masks.” The disposable plastic filters nestle deep in the nostrils, with only a thin plastic pull tab staying outside the nose. They are harder to spot than you might guess from the package, but the thin plastic filament that connects the two sides looks a lot like uncomfortable medical equipment. The Stopper looks almost identical, but the package claims it will not only block out baddies, but absorb a runny nose, too. This could be useful if it works, since nose-blowing in public is generally frowned upon.
Hana Hana Happi from M-Kaep describes the design of its paper in-nose filter as a “3-D ziz-zag dome.” It looks like a regular paper mask shrunk down to individual nostril size. The white paper doesn’t disappear as deeply into the nose as the Nose Pit, but then, it doesn’t claim to be invisible. They are more discreet than, say, sticking wads of tissue paper up your nose, but it’s hard to say by how much.