Day to Day Life

Dealing with a Cold in Japan

Getting sick anywhere is drag but it becomes even more burdensome when you are dealing with sickness in a country that doesn’t use your native language. Compared to when I first got here, I don’t have any real problems but my routine for dealing with a cold has changed slightly. One of the reasons for this is of course because I am no longer a student and I work. In Japan, that often means suffering through work in misery or having to take an unpaid day off to get better since many Japanese companies do not offer sick days. Of course, there are some companies that you can use your paid holidays instead but I am not so fortune. So this weekend when I went home with a 39 degree fever I had to act fast. Four days later and I still don’t feel my best but I thought it would be useful to show what kind of stuff I use when I get “The Japanese Cold”.

Staying Hydrated and Making Sure to Eat

Ever since childhood I have had major problems drinking enough water and eating enough food when I’m sick and becoming an adult and moving to Japan has done nothing to change that. However, I have found a few things that I buy almost every time I get sick enough that I don’t want to eat. The first one is Pocari Sweat.


Pocari is an electrolyte drink that helps keep you hydrated. Many people drink it when they are doing physical activity or when it is really hot in the summer. I find Pocari to be really helpful because unlike electrolyte drinks in Canada, it doesn’t have all this colour and complicated added flavour to contribute to my queasy stomach.

I even have trouble drinking plain water when I am really sick so having a drink that is optimized to prevent dehydration that doesn’t taste extremely fruity is wonderful. Pocari does have a slight flavour and is of course thicker than water but I find it very easy to drink when I am sick and always get it when I have a fever. It’s also only around 100 yen so it’s just as affordable as bottled water.

Another thing I really like to buy when I’m sick is a jelly filled with vitamins. There are different brands depending on which store you go to but you can buy them at basically all supermarkets and convenient stores.

This is another way to make sure you are getting enough vitamins to fight your sickness even if you can’t eat a lot. I know that when I am sick I can only handle eating bread so this jelly really helped me out this weekend. I also like to eat mikan jelly but didn’t buy that this time so have no pictures.

Inevitable Cold Sores

So, unfortunately for me, whenever I get a fever I always get cold sores. Of course you can go to a dermatology clinic for this or just leave them alone (my normal approach) but there is also over the counter medicine available – it took a lot of English and Japanese google searches for me to find this…possibly a sign of my bad Googling skills. Keeping in mind here that in Japan the term for cold sore is ヘルペス or リップヘルペス / 唇ヘルペス aka herpes or lip herpes. It’s a bit embarrassing since it isn’t as common in Japan but anyway…


I’m back to work tomorrow and wanted to make sure that they didn’t spread or get worse, so I opted to get over the counter medication. It’s called Activir. I got it at my local Tomod’s but I think that most pharmacies should have it in stock (at least in Tokyo area).

However, it is a stronger medication so you have to ask the cashier for it – if there is no registered pharmacist present then it cannot be sold to you. The pharmacist will ask you if you have ever been to a dermatologist for your cold sores before and they might not be willing to sell it to you if you have not.

When I bought it he also showed me the medication information charts and asked me if I had any of the problems listed. Since I did it I successfully bought the medication for 1,200 yen. For only 2g of medication it is kind of expensive but it has been going a long way.

As for cold medication, there is already quite a bit about it online and I have yet to settle on what brand I like using so I will avoid providing any suggestions in this post. However, feel free to comment about what YOU do when you have a cold! Who knows who it could help?

Also, here is one of the sites I reference every single time I need to buy new cold medicine:

One thought on “Dealing with a Cold in Japan”

  • Deanna 2018-10-08 at 20:33

    Very informative .


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