Acupuncture for hay fever: how does it help?

Acupuncture for hay fever (also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis): according to the World Health Organisation, it truly helps.

The World Health Organisation strongly recommends acupuncture to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.  Randomized clinical control trials have found it to be more effective than antihistamine drugs although findings are yet to be verified.

WHO Report on Acupuncture for Hay Fever

“WHO Acupuncture: review and analysis of controlled clinical trials

2.4 Respiratory disorders

Acupuncture is often used in treating respiratory disorders. Allergic rhinitis is one of the major indications. In controlled studies, it has been shown that acupuncture is more effective than antihistamine drugs in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (111–115). Acupuncture’s lack of side-effects is a distinct advantage in treating this condition; however, its protective effect against allergen-provoked rhinitis has not been verified (116).”

HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE FOR HAY FEVER WORK?

Chinese Medicine differs from Western Medicine in that it focuses on why your body is reacting the way it is, not just on getting rid of the symptoms.  When using acupuncture for hay fever to treat a patient I would want to know how the symptoms manifest.  I would ask: “Do you have breathing difficulties? Does your nose run?  Is your throat itchy?  Do your eyes itch?”  Your answers to these questions will enable me to diagnose the underlying cause of your hay fever, help you build some resistance and help calm your symptoms.

acupuncture for hay fever

HOW DOES TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE DIAGNOSE HAY FEVER?

In Chinese Medicine terms, hay fever is generally seen as an attack on the Lung channel.  The Lung is the Yin organ (as in Yin and Yang) most open to the elements as it has a direct connection to the outside via the throat.  Thus it is the most likely of the Yin organs to suffer invasions from pathogens, which is why coughs and colds are so predominant.  There is also likely to be an underlying imbalance in the Kidney and Liver meridians. For a patient with an acute attack of hay fever, I would use points on the body to calm the symptoms he or she is presenting with.  I may also use ear acupuncture points which can be highly effective.

HOW MANY SESSIONS OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR HAY FEVER WILL I NEED?

There can be no exact answer to this.  In my experience, I have found that if you are prepared to have weekly acupuncture treatment in the two months leading up to the hay fever season, this should stand you in good stead.  Long-term, I would expect your allergic reaction to a high pollen count to be significantly reduced if not eradicated for the forthcoming season and often for the year after as well.  It is particularly important if you have children studying for exams that you get them treatment prior to the season starting.  I am often asked if I can treat people when their hay fever is in full flight.  The answer is that I can help damp down the symptoms but it is unlikely to be as effective as having early treatment.

IS ACUPUNCTURE FOR HAY FEVER COST EFFECTIVE?

It will always be cheaper to buy over the counter nasal sprays, tablets and ointments.  The downside of this is that you will still be struggling with the symptoms and some of the remedies will make you drowsy.  Acupuncture aims to treat the root cause of the symptoms rather than the symptoms themselves.  An investment in your health prior to the hay fever symptoms should make the spring/summer more enjoyable for you.

OFFICIAL RESPONSES CONFIRM TH EFFECTIVENESS OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR HAY FEVER

The world-renowned College of Integrated Chinese Medicine gives their view on the acupuncture for hay fever treatment:

There’s some interesting research into how acupuncture can benefit hay fever sufferers and deal with the cause and debilitating symptoms. We wanted to share some of the theory and treatment principles our students learn about on the course.

Chinese Medicine attributes the cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, to an impaired functioning of our Lungs and Kidneys. In Chinese medicine these organs help to control our immune system and when their functions are diminished, either by a constitutional weakness or lifestyle factors, it leaves us susceptible to external pollutants – in this case pollen – irritating our upper respiratory tract and leading to hay fever symptoms including runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and blocked nose.

We also teach students points that might be used if someone is suffering from hayfever and we’ve created a little video to show you some.

The BAcc (British Acupuncture Council) explains how acupuncture for hay fever works:

Evidence from systematic reviews suggests that acupuncture and moxibustion may be a safe and effective treatment for allergic rhinitis.

  • Benefits exceed the ones of conventional medicine (Xiao 2009).
  • Acupuncture can help to relieve symptoms of perennial rhinitis (Lee 2009).
  • Ear acupressure has a similar efficacy to antihistamines (Zhang 2010).
  • However, the reviews also state that we need more high-quality randomised controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis, particularly seasonal (hay fever) (Roberts 2008; Lee 2009; Xiao 2009; Zhang 2010).
  • Recent randomised controlled trials have found that acupuncture used as an adjunct to routine care for allergic rhinitis has clinically relevant and persistent benefits (Brinkhaus 2008)
  • and is cost effective (Witt 2009).
  • Such trials have also found that acupuncture is effective in the symptomatic treatment of perennial rhinitis (Xue 2007).
  • Active acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture in decreasing the symptom scores for persistent allergic rhinitis and increasing the symptom-free days (Ng 2004).

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points affects areas of the brain that reduce sensitivity to pain and stress (Hui 2010)

Acupuncture may help to relieve pain and congestion in people with allergic rhinitis by:
  • regulating levels of IgE and cytokines, mediators of the allergic reaction to extrinsic allergens (Ng 2004; Rao 2006; Roberts 2008)
  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors. It changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987; Han 2004; Zhao 2008; Cheng 2009);
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);
  • enhancing natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008);
  • increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling.

Regarding acupuncture for hay fever, Medical News Today declares:

Researchers from Charite-University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany, reported in Annals of Internal Medicine that some hay fever sufferers underwent 12 acupuncture sessions. They experienced fewer symptoms and required less antihistamine medication compared to a control group.

In this study, Dr. Benno Brinkhaus and team randomly selected 422 volunteers, all hay fever sufferers, into 3 groups:
  1. Acupuncture plus rescue medication (RM) group
  2. Sham acupuncture plus RM group. In sham acupuncture, the needles enter only superficially and into areas of skin that are not traditional acupuncture points.
  3. RM alone group

Patients in all 3 groups received 12 treatments in over 8 weeks in the first year. They could take antihistamine medication whenever they had hay fever symptoms.

Researchers found that overall, those in the acupuncture plus RM group reported better improvements in their symptoms over the eight-week period of treatment. They also needed fewer antihistamine drugs, compared to those in the other groups.

IN THE YORKSHIRE POST, THE STORY OF TOM LAVERICK’S EXPERIENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR HAY FEVER

For Tom Laverick, summer had become a season he dreaded from being a child. Debilitating hay fever caused him problems including nosebleeds, throughout his childhood and into adulthood.

I’ve suffered severely with hay fever since I was a young child,” explains Tom. “They told me I would grow out of it as I got older. Unfortunately, I didn’t and, if anything, it probably worsened. “ He tried all conventional remedies from tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops. “I even tried home remedies such as eating local honey, and nothing worked.”

Tom then started working at the in ICT at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York. “Both my parents have had acupuncture over the last couple of years and had success with it. So, having exhausted all of the previous treatments, I decided to try it for myself last summer when the symptoms flared up.

Tom started by having 1 treatment per week for 3 weeks to combat the symptoms he was suffering from at the time. He then had 3 monthly treatments to keep the symptoms at bay for the rest of the summer. “They told me acupuncture didn’t hurt but still felt sceptical at the thought of all the needles. I honestly didn’t feel any pain though and actually found it to be a very relaxing experience.

The success of the treatment was incredible. After just a couple of treatments, I was hardly suffering at all. It was the first time I’d gone through an entire summer without having any nosebleeds. That was something I regularly suffered with at the height of the summer months. It really did feel like the first time I’d actually been able to enjoy summer rather than dreading it and wanting to hide inside. If anyone suffers from hay fever, I really couldn’t recommend acupuncture highly enough.

People’s Responses to Acupuncture for hay fever

People’s responses to acupuncture vary. However, often there is a 3-day delay between acupuncture treatment and the patient feeling the benefit of it.  You will almost certainly need more than one acupuncture treatment when your symptoms are at their worst.  There are no side-effects with acupuncture. Have treatment leading up to the hay fever season, and you’ll find that your symptoms either disappear or lessen considerably.

TOP TIP

Taking a daily spoonful of local honey (produced within a 10-mile radius of where you live) can give you antigens to help you combat hay fever.  There is no scientific evidence for this and it may be an old wives tale, but many tales have their basis in truth. So, herbal medicine could be worth a try.

Visit Jackie at Bridge to Health Clinic in Ealing, West London for a treatment of acupuncture for hay fever.

HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT

If you have not had acupuncture treatment before and want to find out more about it please read this blog to find out how to get the best from a treatment.

To find out what to expect from an acupuncture treatment please read here.

 

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