When spring blows in, it can mark the beginning of months of suffering for those with hay fever. Stuffed up sinuses, runny nose with itchy eyes, headaches and poor concentration can really make life rough when the pollen is in the air. For some it doesn’t even stop with spring time but continues all year round. In this article we’ll run through the current biomedical understanding of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and then finish with some ideas from traditional Chinese medicine along with current acupuncture research.
HOW DOES CHINESE MEDICINE APPROACH HAY FEVER?
From a Chinese medicine perspective the body is an interconnected whole so we’re also interested in the quality of your digestion, sleep and daily energy. Our goals would be to: 1) improve circulation of the sinuses and also; 2) help the body better be able to come out of a sympathetic dominant (fight or flight) state into a parasympathetic dominant (rest, digest and recover) state. This would help to decrease inflammation, improve recovery and lower immune sensitivity. By working on #2, we’re trying to help your body better look after you so you don’t have to rely on (or at least reduce reliance of) symptomatic relief.
ACUPUNCTURE HAY FEVER RESEARCH
A systematic review and meta-analysis of research concluded that “acupuncture could be a safe and valid treatment” for those with allergic rhinitis. Acupuncture has also been shown to have various anti-inflammatory effects that have direct relevance to those with allergic rhinitis. For those with asthma which is exacerbated by allergic rhinitis, acupuncture, when combined with standard care, “seems to be a useful and cost-effective add-on treatment” for improving quality of life for those with allergic bronchial asthma.
TRY ACUPUNCTURE FOR YOUR HAY FEVER
The friendly team at Village Remedies in Balmain are here to help you. Please call or book online to schedule a time to see us. Your appointment will include a consult, assessment and acupuncture treatment. If we’re a good fit for you, then from there we can develop a plan to get you feeling better.
WHAT IS IT?
Allergic rhinitis (commonly referred to as hay fever) affects an estimated 18% of Australian and New Zealand population. It is an allergic reaction of the nasal passages to environmental allergens.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
When environmental allergens are breathed in they irritate the airways and trigger an allergic reaction in individuals sensitive to the allergen. Most common triggers of allergic rhinitis are:
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Typical symptoms of hay fever include one or more of the following:
Itchy, watery eyes
The severity of symptoms are classified from mild to moderate where day to day function is not affected, to severe which affects day to day function. Some may only experience hay fever seasonally, such as those with a pollen allergy, while others may suffer year round due to frequent exposure to other allergens.
Ongoing allergic rhinitis can lead other complications such as:
Sleep disturbance, including snoring
Lethargy and low energy
Recurring ear infections in children
Recurring sinus infections in adults
Exacerbated asthma symptoms that are harder to control
WHEN TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR
It is worth checking in with your doctor if you have asthma or your allergic rhinitis is affecting your day to day function.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
It may be clear from your symptoms and history or exposure to allergens that allergic rhinitis would be the likely diagnosis, otherwise you may be referred for allergy testing. This is usually a “skin prick test” where you are exposed to a range of allergens via pricks of the skin and the inflammatory reaction is accessed at each site.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
If possible, avoidance of the allergen is the primary treatment. For management of symptoms pharmaceutical are available such as:
Intranasal corticosteroid sprays (INCS)
Decongestants - nasal spray and tablets
Combination medication - e.g. antihistamine combined with decongestant
In severe cases of allergic rhinitis, desensitisation (allergen immunotherapy) is another option where the person is exposed to the allergen in controlled, gradually increasing doses to become desensitised and reduce severity of symptoms. Courses are long term and can typically span 3-5 years.
Feng S, Han M, Fan Y, Yang G, Liao Z, Liao W, et al. Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2015 Jan-Feb;29(1):57-62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25590322
McDonald JL, Cripps AW, Smith PK, Smith CA, Xue CC, Golianu B. The anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture and their relevance to allergic rhinitis: a narrative review and proposed model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:591796. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23476696
Reinhold T, Brinkhaus B, Willich SN, Witt C. Acupuncture in patients suffering from allergic asthma: is it worth additional costs? J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Mar;20(3):169-77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24256028