Acupuncture for Seasonal Allergies

By Mary Vincent L.Ac.

The most common type of allergies people seek treatment for at BCA are seasonal allergies, otherwise known as “hay fever”, which includes lots of sneezing, stuffy noses, and itchy eyes. This is especially true in the fall and spring, when tree, grass, and ragweed pollen are at their highest and surge with the warm, windy weather. If your allergies are predictable and occur at a certain time of the year, we suggest starting treatments just before the onset and continuing 1-2 times a week through the season. Many people find this helps keep their symptoms mild and easier to control. If you have a random mild to moderate allergy flare up, we suggest coming in for a few treatments in a row, which can help temper down your symptoms (including digestive issues related to a food allergy).

An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system has developed a hypersensitivity to something in the environment that would not typically affect the majority of individuals. Allergens can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through contact with the skin. When a person comes in contact with something they are allergic to, the body produces a specific antibody known as IgE which binds the allergen and attaches them to mast cells. Mast cells are found throughout the body, but particularly in the intestines and airways. When IgE attaches the allergen to the mast cells, they begin to release histamine, the chemical responsible for the unpleasant physical symptoms of an allergic reaction.

The most common allergens include pollen, dust mites, mold, animal dander, foods, drugs, latex, and insect venom. Adverse reactions include:
* Sneezing
* Itchy, runny or stuffy nose
* Itchy, watery eyes
* Fatigue
* Rashes/hives
* Local swelling
* Vomiting
* Diarrhea
The severity of a reaction can vary from mild to severe, including possible anaphylaxis, which is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

A controlled, randomized trial recently published in February 2015 in Annals of Internal Medicine focused on treating allergic rhinitis (sneezing, runny/congested nose) with acupuncture. The study followed 422 people for 2 months with participants placed in 3 groups: one group received 12 acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines, one group received 12 sham acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines, and the third group took antihistamines only. The results showed that the group who received real acupuncture treatments in conjunction with antihistamines had statistically significant improvements in symptoms and took less antihistamines overall.

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