Commonly known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis is the body’s hypersensitive reaction of its immunity to air-borne substances like pollens, dust, dust mites, fur, animal dandruff, feathers, spores, molds, plants and chemicals. The most common symptoms of hayfever are a runny nose, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, sneezing, itchy, reddened eyes, conjunctivitis, and sore throat. Hay fever can also affect the trachea and the lungs causing shortness of breath, chest congestion, wheezing and asthma. On occasion, a loss of taste accompanies the loss of smell due to congestion. Hay fever can also lead to sinus infections, and in severe cases, headaches, fever and nose bleeding can occur.
Allergic rhinitis most commonly affects sufferers acutely when trees and weeds pollinate, filling the air with the most problem-causing allergens. It is best to avoid these allergens as a way to controlling symptoms, however, many people affected use prescribed or over-the-counter pharmaceutical antihistamines and decongestants. In addition to side effects such as dry mouth, drowsiness, urine retention in males, and fast heart rate, some remedies, like nasal decongestant sprays, can have a reverse effect if the drug is used for too long a period or if discontinued. The nasal tissue experiences trauma, develops a dependence on the drug, and in some cases can cause bleeding.
Medical evidence has shown that those who suffer from hay fever react positively to the benefits of acupuncture. A study done by researchers at two German universities gave a six-week treatment regime that combined weekly acupuncture with herbal medicine every day to half of a study group of 52 people, while the other half had needles inserted into non-acupoints and were given a non-active herbal formula. 85% of those on acupuncture and herbal medicine reported an improvement in well-being, compared to just 40% in the other group, and were more likely to experience remission and took far fewer drugs to relieve symptoms. Even for people with acute symptoms, studies have shown that after acupuncture treatment for hayfever, 90% of patients experience a reduction in their symptoms.
What is hayfever from the perspective of TCM?
Chinese medicine views hay fever as the body’s reaction to external forces, and focuses on strengthening the body’s defenses against the threat. It goes deeper than that: TCM also recognizes the weakness that exists internally, or at the root of the problem, and treating the cause and not only the symptoms is the main factor that sets acupuncture apart from mainstream treatments. Acupuncture helps to tackle the root problem of stagnation of qi in the liver, as well as the obvious lung qi imbalance which is symptomatically involved.
Since spring and autumn are key times when hay fever sufferers experience their symptoms, they are prime times to have regular acupuncture treatments as a hayfever remedy to push out toxins and pathogens that collect to cause phlegm. Patients often experience relief from congestion, sinus pressure and sneezing during an initial session, and can also be relieved of other ongoing ailments in the process. Treating imbalances for hay fever symptoms can have a beneficial effect on digestion and constipation, and provide a heightened feeling of overall wellbeing. With monthly treatment through the off-season, patients can expect a drastic reduction in their symptoms when the season hits again.