Spring is the season of growth and renewal with some great weather for enjoying the outdoors before the heat of summer hits. However hayfever sufferers don’t look forward to spring in the same way as it is usually when they reach for anti-histamines and tissues!
Hayfever (also called allergic rhinitis) is a condition caused by the immune system reacting to airborne substances. Symptoms can occur all year around in Brisbane but are more prevalent in Spring, and can include sneezing; a runny or stuffy nose; itchy ears, nose and throat; itchy, red or watery eyes and often headaches. Because hayfever is triggered by an allergen it is often managed by anti-histamines which suppress the allergy symptoms. Other conventional treatments may include saline or medicated nasal sprays, eye drops, or immune desensitization therapy. There is a range of non-drug treatment options as well and the really exciting development is new research demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for this condition.
Acupuncturists have been helping people for centuries for this condition, but until now scientific research supporting its use has been lacking. This research from Griffith University found acupuncture treatment twice a week for six weeks to be effective in treating hayfever (1). Their research showed that treating at this frequency reduced the levels of IgE in the body which is associated with allergic symptoms and led to sustained improvement. Another study from RMIT University in Melbourne found similar results by treating three times a week over 4 weeks during the allergy season (2 ). So how does the research help to understand acupuncture and hayfever? The answer is dosage. It is obvious that if less than the prescribed dose of a drug is taken then it may not be effective – the same goes for acupuncture. If treatment is spaced too far apart for a given condition then the desired result is less likely. The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation has taken acupuncture research very seriously, and in their new clinical practice guidelines recommend acupuncture treatment for allergic rhinitis for patients who are interested in a non-drug therapy (3).
There are a range of other options that can also relieve hayfever symptoms and support the changes achieved with acupuncture. Diets rich in natural antioxidants such as The Mediterranean Diet reduce the symptoms of not only hayfever but also some types of eczema and asthma. Specific probiotic strains can also help by reducing allergic tendencies. A range of herbal medicines can also be used to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. As can be seen there are many options for managing hayfever, it is just a matter of finding the best fit for the individual.
(1) McDonald JL, Smith PK, Smith CA, Changli Xue C, Golianu B, Cripps AW. Effect of acupuncture on house dust mite specific IgE, substance P, and symptoms in persistent allergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016 Jun;116(6):497-505
(2) Xue CC, Zhang AL, Zhang CS, DaCosta C, Story DF, Thien FC. Acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2015 Oct;115(4):317-24.e1
(3) Seidman MD, Gurgel RK, Lin SY, Schwartz SR, Baroody FM,et al. Guideline Otolaryngology Development Group. AAO-HNSF. Clinical practice guideline: Allergic rhinitis.Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Feb;152(1 Suppl):S1-43. doi: 10.1177/0194599814561600.