While Japan is regarded as a clean and safe country to visit, it’s possible that you may still become ill due to differences in climate and exposure to diseases that you may not be accustomed to. It’s a good idea to consult your local health practitioner before departing to get their expert advice about any special precautions or vaccinations you may need and wear a mask if you’re worried about getting sick. In this article, we’ll introduce some common ways people get sick when they travel to Japan as tourists or long-term visitors, as well as offer information about drug stores, pharmacies, hospitals and what to do in an emergency.
Sicknesses you should be careful of in Japan
During the winter months, Japan’s cold temperatures and wet conditions often result in people catching colds or Influenza and tourists are no exception. Norovirus can lead to gastroenteritis, vomiting and diarrhoea and is highly infectious, with many people susceptible to contracting it during outbreaks on cruise ships, at restaurants or other public facilities.
Heatstroke in summer
A recent survey has shown that around 70% of foreign tourists in Japan had suffered some form of heat stroke, with symptoms including nausea, headaches and muscle weakness. It’s important to be careful of heatstroke during the hot and humid summer months from June to September and seek out hydration and shade at the first sign of symptoms.
Gastroenteritis and colds in winter
Gastroenteritis is caused by a variety of different viruses and is prevalent during the autumn and winter months in Japan, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Infection is often a result of eating contaminated food and it’s important to maintain fluids to prevent dehydration, as well as ingest food little by little as you recover. Also, travellers should be aware that influenza is prevalent from December to February, so take the necessary precautions.
Prevention options at Japanese drugstores
One of the best ways to prevent getting ill on holidays is to visit one of Japan’s many drugstores and pick up products such as masks that prevent the infection of viruses.
If you prefer not to wear a mask, you can also find anti-virus sprays that help to prevent infections or pollen from adhering to the skin or hair. Look for Shiseido’s Ihada Aller Screen EX spray (around 1,000 yen) that helps to protect against pollen and air pollutants for up to four hours or Fumakira Virus Ion De Black. Both can simply be sprayed towards the face to stop unwanted intrusions from getting into the eyes, nose and mouth.
Regularly washing your hands is another simple thing you can do to prevent the contraction of infectious diseases. But even in the absence of water, you can “wash” your hands using disinfecting wet tissues or alcohol hand sanitizers, Lion Kirei Kirei hand gel (around 400 yen) that can be purchased at drugstores.
If you’ve lost a significant amount of bodily fluid due to heatstroke or gastroenteritis, you can help the body to replenish with oral rehydration solutions to maintain the required balance of electrolytes and sugars. We recommend Otsuka OS-1 (around 200 yen).
For additional medicine and information, please consult with the pharmacist on duty at the drug store and keep in mind that they may not be available at night for the purchase of some medication.
Visiting hospitals in Japan
If drugstore medication is not helping to relieve your symptoms or you’re experiencing an emergency, you may need to visit a hospital to see a doctor directly. It’s a good idea to search online for a medical institution that specializes in foreign languages, as well as check with your travel insurance provider that you will be covered if you seek medical treatment at that particular institution.