Allergies in South Korea



South Korea is one of the many Asian countries where four seasons take turns each year. A shift from one to the next, however, can cause people to experience seasonal allergies.

This may not be new to expats who come from countries where the same is true but for those who are used to tropical climates, extra precautions may be needed.

There is an obligatory national health insurance scheme in place in this country but for most expats, taking out private health insurance in South Korea adds a valued sense of security against allergies normally encountered throughout the year. The most common seasonal allergy is caused by pollination during the spring season when flowers bloom and wind scatters pollen into in the air.

Other times, allergies are caused by pollution. Usually within the months of March to May each year, clouds carrying the so-called yellow dust, or "hwangsa" in Korean, are brought in by spring winds all the way from Mongolia and China. Yellow dust causes many respiratory problems and can be managed by using masks, nose washes and the like. In South Korea, people seal their windows and doors during this time of the year to protect themselves. 

Every expat should come to South Korea prepared with anti-allergy medications. Although generally harmless, allergies can be very inconvenient and have the potential to develop into more serious medical conditions, especially for those with existing respiratory problems such as asthma. Hence, it is always best to see a travel medicine specialist prior to departure and keep one's international health insurance handy.