Acupuncture for Hayfever Treatment
Although many of us are enjoying the warmth of spring in the air, spare a though for hay fever sufferers. The arrival of the first warm winds of the season often brings an onslaught of symptoms lasting through spring and summer.
Hay fever, medically known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by allergies to plant pollen's, dust or pets. Symptoms include a watery or stuffy nose, sneezing and itchy eyes. Standard treatment is normally use of antihistamines and/or nasal sprays. However, many patients find that antihistamines do not work, are unhappy with the constant side effects and/or as time goes on want a longer term solution (Xue 2002).
Traditional Acupuncture an ancient Chinese model of healthcare uses fine needles placed gently into specific points to help the whole body respond to improve health. It is increasingly recognized as both effective and safe for many disorders including the treatment of Hayfever.
With increasing numbers of hayfever patients through my clinic, I was curious to compare my local successes with published Acupuncture research.
Although there is still work to be done to fully understand the mechanism of how Acupuncture works, with regular use, research is starting to show Acupuncture to be an effective method of treatment to ease of hayfever symptoms compared to a standard care approach. (Brinkhaus 2004).
For example, in one of the first reports of its kind 52 particpant’s in Germany underwent treatments 1x per week for 6 weeks. Results showed participants experienced fewer symptoms, an improvement on quality of life scales and required less antihistamine medication compared to a control group after treatment.(Brinkhaus 2004)
There are many other trials also reporting similar findings (see references below). It seems hayfever is one of the easier treatments to research as improvements (or not) are easy to measure and check and treatments in acupuncture are ofter similar across different practitioners.
These trials also discuss use of Chinese Herbs along side Acupuncture treatments. I have not tended to prescribe these but as herbal medicine seems to add to the success of the treatment compared to usual care (anti-histime use) and/or acupuncture alone, I am definitely looking to add this option for my own clinic.
Like all Acupuncture research it is difficult design clear trials that truly reflect what happens in clinical practice. These trials in particular also lack numbers of participants, making it difficult to make impact against large drug company funded research. What is positive is that the trials above all use consistent scientific method to provide validation and eliminate bias meaning they could be expanded on in the future. However it will be some time before research conclusions are on a large enough scale for the ‘Medical world’ to take notice.
From personal observations and studies read, advice is that when seeking acupuncture treatment for hayfever is to stick with it, particularly when in an acute phase. The more treatment received the more likely symptoms will abate for longer periods of time. Ideally two treatments per week for the short term until symptoms start to ease off, and 'pre-seasonal' defense treatment before your hayfever really kicks in is also valuable.
The best thing clients report about using acupuncture is that as well as an ease in Hayfever symptoms, other health concerns also improve. Clients often report a general lift in wellbeing from treatment and use treatment time to also add to shaking off the winter blues and putting a spring in the step again. Now Anti-histamines can’t do that!
Brinkhaus B, Hummelsberger J, Kohnen R, Seufert J, Hempton CH, Leonhardy H, Nogel R, Joos S, Hahn E, Schuppan D. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomised controlled clinical trial. Institute of social medicine, epidemiology and health ecomnomics, Germany, 2004.
Williamson L, Yudkin P, Livingstone R, Prasad K, Fuller A, Lawerance M. "Hay Fever Treatment in general practice: A Randomised Controlled Trial Comparing Standardised Western Acupuncture With Sham Acupuncture." (British Medical Journal) 14, no. 1 (1996).
Xue CC, English R, Zhang JJ, Da Costa C, Li CG. "Effect of Acupuncture in the treatment of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A randomised Controlled Clinial Trial." (The American Journal of Chinese Medicine) 30, no. 1,1-11 (2002).
Xue CC, Thien FCK, Zhang JJS, Yang W, Da Costa C, Li CG. "Effect of Adding a Chinese Herbal Preparation to Acupuncture for Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: Randomised double blind controlled trial." (Hong Kong Medical Journal) 9, no. 6 (2003).