Hay Fever (Allergic rhinitis) a great deal of discomfort during certain times of the year. This discomfort can be very frustrating because in most cases relief is only found when taking medication. This article seeks to answer some basic questions about Allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Specifically the article addresses how Acupuncture can play a role in treating allergy systmptom naturally.
What are allergies? The technical part.
“Antigens,” or protein particles like pollen, food or dander enter our bodies through a variety of ways. If they cause an allergic reaction, the antigens are known as allergens. These allergens can get into our body in several ways:
- Inhalation via the nasal cavity and into the lungs. These are airborne and originate on trees, grasses and weeds; house dust that include dust mite particles, mold spores, cat and dog dander and latex dust.
- In our food. Examples are shrimp, peanuts and other nuts.
- Injected. Medications like penicillin or other injectable drugs, and venom from insect stings and bites.
- Absorbed through the skin. Plants such as poison ivy, sumac and oak and latex are examples.
The reasons for having allergies include exposure to allergens at times when the body’s defenses are weak (i.e. during an illness, pregnancy). Genetic factors also play a role so in many cases a parent usually passes this on. Allergies more commonly start when you are young however they can occur at any time and any age. Additionally, a person can suffer from allergies for several years and then the allergy goes away.
How bad is the problem? The staggering statistics:
- Each year more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases. (all allergies)
- Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic disease in the United States, costing the health care system $18 billion annually.
- Two estimates of allergy prevalence in the United States are 9 percent and 16 percent. The prevalence of allergic rhinitis has increased substantially over the past 15 years.
- Approximately 16.7 million office visits to health care providers each year are attributed to allergic rhinitis.
- Chronic sinusitis is the most commonly reported chronic disease, affecting 12.6 percent of people (approximately 38 million) in the United States in 1996.
- In 1996, estimated U.S. health care expenditures attributable to sinusitis were more than $5.8 billion.
- Allergic drug reactions account for 5 to 10 percent of all adverse drug reactions, with skin reaction being the most common form.
Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Acupuncture is a traditional option that works:
Acupuncture is the use of very fine sterile needles inserted at specific points of the body in order to rebalance the internal environment, re-establish homeostasis, and therefore treat disease. According to traditional theories acupuncture influences the vital force, or Qi, of the body. Western science has proven that acupuncture can regulate the body by many mechanisms, including stimulating the endocrine and nervous systems. Simplistically stated acupuncture brings the body back to balance.
When treating allergies acupuncture is able to treat the symptoms and the cause. This is referred to as a root and branch treatment. The branch treatment will often focus on local and distal points that focus on the energy pathways involved. The root treatment will focus on restoring the body’s functions in order to address the cause. When considering acupuncture treatment it is best to start treatments early rather than later. Therefore a month before allergy season starts so that your body gets a jump start.
But does it really work? A brief review of clinical trials.
In controlled studies conducted by the World Health Organization, it has been shown that acupuncture is more effective than antihistamine drugs in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (111-115). Acupuncture’s lack of side-effects is a distinct advantage in treating this condition; however, its protective effect against allergen-provoked rhinitis has not been verified (116).
What are Western Medicines approach for treatment?
There are two approaches from a Western Perspective to address Allergies:
The first is to suppress the allergic response. This is why antihistamines are prescribed. Other medications are prescribed to act on the nervous system. The names may be familiar to some albuterol, epinephrine, prednisone and decongestants.
The second approach from a western medical perspective is to avoid whatever is causing the allergy. This is probably the least effective approach. Better stated it may help a little but certainly not for all allergies. As an example you may not be able to avoid grass or trees. However as a note, all allergies are not created equal (you may not be allergic to all grass), therefore I would not recommend discounting avoidance either. Some recommendations include air filters in the home, leaving windows closed during peak hours, using allergy. The next level of treatment is inject small amounts of the allergen and increase the dose over time reduce the effect of the antibodies that exist.
Western medicine is very effective for allergies, side effects such as drowsiness in some people, reduced immune system function or relying on medication too much cause people to look for other alternative approaches.