Apr 14

Surviving in Japan: 7 Words to Know When You Have a Cold (in Japan)

Ashley Thompson is "Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese."

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Here are some essential Japanese words you might want to know if you come down with a cold in Japan.

I tend to stick to more natural remedies when possible, but when the symptoms are bad enough, I head for the drugs (medicine). Although, and some of you may already know about this, eastern medicine, or kanpou, is used in Japan.

So where do you find cold medicine? The best places to look are your local daily goods store and/or local pharmacy – called 薬屋 (くすりや, kusuri ya) or 薬局 (やっきょく, yakkyoku). 薬 (くすり, kusuri) means drugs/medicine. Now, let’s look at some of the most common cold symptoms and the corresponding Japanese so you know what to look for (or ask for) when seeking out cold medicine in Japan.

Note: Cold medicine is 風邪薬 (かぜぐすり, kazegusuri) in Japanese. 風邪 (かぜ, kaze) means “cold” (as in common cold). The word for symptoms is: 症状 (しょうじょう, shoujou).

1. Runny nose – 鼻水 (はなみず, hanamizu)

cold medicine Japan鼻 means nose, and 水 is water, so you can put two and two together. Antihistamines will typically be labeled with 鼻水 (hanamizu). Sneezing, which is more typical of allergies but can occur with colds, is くしゃみ (kushami).

2. Stuffy nose/congestion – 鼻づまり (はなづまり, hanazumari)

*Keep in mind: Over the counter (OTC) antihistamines and some other medicine are typically drowsy. Usually you need to get a prescription for non-drowsy medication from a doctor. Even then though, it depends on the doctor you see. I had one doctor who refused to prescribe non-drowsy meds to clear up my sinus congestion because he wanted me to continue the drowsy ones. Also note that they put caffeine in a LOT of medicine in Japan, although I can’t say it does much.

3. Cough – 咳 (せき, seki)

See sore throat, also. As a side note, you may notice 痰 (たん, tan) on cough syrup, which means phlegm. —CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

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