Acupuncture for Hay Fever
Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, affects about 20% of the UK population. It is an allergic reaction to airborne pollen, and manifests with some of the following symptoms:
Runny or blocked nose
Watery or itchy eyes
Itching on the roof of the mouth
Many people use over the counter remedies to combat hay fever; these usually rely on antihistamine agents, which may cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, insomnia and nervousness. In more severe cases immunotherapy or steroid medication may be prescribed by your GP.
Hay Fever and TCM
In TCM the symptoms of hay fever are viewed as being due to the invasion of the body by an external pathogen. Symptomatic relief can therefore be provided by expelling the irritant, and this is the focus of treatment during the season. Acupuncture is often very effective, and treatment will probably involve the use of acupuncture points which have been used for these purposes for thousands of years.
However, if symptoms are not to recur, it is vital to address the underlying imbalance which is enabling the pathogen to penetrate the body’s defence systems. At your first consultation the therapist will want to find out why you get hay fever in the first place. This is often because there is too much heat somewhere in your system, which is causing you to over-react to the allergens concerned. This heat can arise as a by-product of the stresses of modern life (which may be why more people seem to suffer from hay fever nowadays), it may be related to the food and drink you consume, or you simply may have a constitutional tendency to be hot. If this is the case, we will use acupuncture to harmonise your system and regulate your temperature.
Alternatively, the problem may be that what in Chinese Medicine is called your ‘Defensive Qi’, is depleted. Defensive Qi is somewhat analogous to the western idea of the immune system, in that it is what stops pathogens from invading the body. Hay fever may be arising because this system is not working effectively enough, and if this is the case treatment will aim to bolster your Defensive Qi.
Treating the underlying imbalance needs to take place out of season, when you are not experiencing symptoms. The benefit of such treatment builds up gradually, and it has the advantage of providing long term symptom relief without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs used in the treatment of hay fever.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Hayfever?
A recent (2009) large randomised controlled trial 1 involving over 5,000 patients concluded that treating patients with allergic rhinitis in routine care with additional acupuncture leads to clinically relevant and persistent benefits.
Indeed, the World Health Organization 2 lists allergic rhinitis (including hay fever) as among the conditions for which acupuncture has been proven, through controlled trials, to be an effective treatment.
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I have suffered from hay fever all my life and I have tried every treatment under the sun (most of which had very little beneficial effect) – sprays, tablets, steroids, injections etc. and many weird and wonderful “Quack cures” (which didn’t). Many of the treatments have side effects, some quite unpleasant.
The hay fever has been so severe that I have had to use 2 different inhalers for asthma regularly during the summer. I have felt really ill at times.
Sean has miraculously changed all this. I now have acupuncture treatments plus Chinese herbal pills before and during the season. I still get minor symptoms but I am able to drastically reduce the medications to the extent that I haven’t needed a steroid inhaler for years and I have only had to use the Ventolin about half a dozen times in total during the peak of the season. I haven’t needed any steroids at all, not even the asthma steroid inhaler. This is absolutely amazing, especially considering how high the pollen count has been over the last few years.
I don’t dread the summer any more.
1 Brinkhaus B et al (2008) Acupuncture in Patients with Allergic Rhinitis: a Pragmatic Randomized Trial. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 101(5): 535-43.
2 WHO (2002): Review and Analysis of Reports of Controlled Clinical Trials
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