Seasonal Allergies are usually triggered by pollen from plants.
Allergic rhinitis is an immune system reaction to an allergen in the air that can be inhaled, like pollen from budding trees, growing grass, and plants like ragweed. Hay fever is a common term that typically describes being allergic to pollen.
Pollen allergy symptoms are similar to those of the common cold. Signs of hay fever include:
Runny nose, itchy nose
Itchy eyes, watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
Headaches, sinus pain
Dark circles under eyes, puffy eyes, “allergic shiners”
Fatigue, malaise, generally feeling under the weather
Wheezing, coughing, trouble breathing
Skin rash is a less common symptom of seasonal allergies, but some people do develop a hay fever rash. The itchy allergy rash may look similar to hives: raised red welts on the skin.
Treatment for Hay Fever
The common medical treatment for hay fever is an antihistamine. Antihistamines come in pill or spray form, and they block the histamine response, which can temporarily relieve the hay fever symptoms. However, these medications do have side effects, the most common of which is drowsiness.
Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative treatment for allergies that can help relieve hay fever symptoms without side effects.
According to TCM theory, allergies fall under the category of illnesses that are caused by “wind” as a pathogenic force that can invade the body. In the TCM view, hay fever occurs due to wind-heat getting into the lungs.
Weakness of the kidneys and spleen(differentiate from your kidneys and spleen in anatomic terms )can also contribute to hay fever; when they are sluggish, mucus tends to build up, and we become more easily fatigued.
When the defensive Qi is strong, it can protect us from cold, heat, wind, and dampness getting into the body and causing problems. Defensive Qi is roughly analogous to what we think of as the immune system in conventional medicine.
TCM treatment for allergic rhinitis may include acupuncture, herbal supplements, moxibustion, and nutrition counseling. TCM can be used either as an alternative therapy for allergies, or as an adjunct treatment for hay fever, along with pharmacological treatment.
With Chinese herbal medicine, we are able to create customized formulas for each patient, depending on their particular presentation of symptoms.
Acupuncture is a highly effective modality for all types of allergies, from allergic rhinitis to atopic dermatitis or eczema, and can help relieve the nasal sinus symptoms that affect the eyes, nose and mouth if someone is allergic to pollen. It can also help reduce itching due to allergic skin rashes.
A clinical trial conducted at a hospital in China showed that a regimen of acupuncture and herbs resulted in over 90% of patients reporting that their nasal symptoms were greatly reduced.
A review of studies of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis showed that this treatment has both short-term and long-term efficacy.
TCM treatment for seasonal allergies allows us to get to the root cause of allergy symptoms and help prevent them from happening. In this way, acupuncture and herbs can function as preventive medicine for hay fever. Getting acupuncture periodically throughout the year can help you avoid allergy attacks when the pollen count is high.
By Ken Luo, Acupuncturist and TCM practitioner