It is that time of the year again; all the flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining (well some days!) the evenings have a lovely long stretch and some people are really suffering with hay fever symptoms. In Ireland, the high pollen season begins sometime in June.
So what is hay fever?
Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis as it is known medically, is an allergic reaction to pollen and spores, the microscopic grains that plants, trees, grasses or fungi use for fertilisation. In spring, plant life comes into bloom and many forms of trees, grasses, fungi and flowers release pollen and spores in order to reproduce. While many plants rely on insects to transfer their pollen, others release their pollen onto the wind. It tends to be this wind-borne pollen that causes problems for people with allergies.
Symptoms consist of: frequent sneezing, running or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, an itchy throat, mouth nose and ears and sometimes but not as common, the loss of your sense of smell, facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses), sweats and headaches.
For the treatment of hay fever, antihistamine medications are available in chemists and they are well stocked up for the summer months. But there is an alternative, acupuncture!
So how does Acupuncture work to treat hay fever?
Acupuncture works on many levels in the treatment of hay fever. Studies have concluded that acupuncture has direct benefits for treating allergies.
• Acupuncture reduces IgE levels
In one study patients with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) were treated with acupuncture. IgE levels were tested before treatment, immediately after treatment, and then again two months after the treatment. IgE levels dropped 61% immediately after the treatment and 76% two months later. Those whose IgE levels dropped greater than 50% remained symptom free for 6 months.
• Acupuncture reduces blood levels of histamine better than oral anti-histamines
In another study of allergic rhinitis patients, about half of the patients received acupuncture and the other half received oral anti-histamine treatment. The blood histamine level was tested before treatment, right after treatment, and again three months after treatment. The histamine levels decreased gradually and the symptoms improved significantly in the acupuncture group compared to the oral anti-histamine group.
With the above studies showing such great benefits, acupuncture is therefore an ideal treatment option for those who want to avoid taking antihistamines for the treatment of hay fever or other over-the-counter remedies.
Acupuncture can also be safely combined with conventional medication, reducing the side effects and enhancing the beneficial effects.
Niamh Muldowney, owner, Anam Mai Acupuncture