After a long, bitterly cold winter, one of the best things to do is get outside and breathe in the sunshine. Unfortunately for many Philadelphians, the warmth of spring comes with a large helping of seasonal allergy symptoms, brought on by increased levels of dust and pollen in the air. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, between 40 and 60 million Americans currently suffer from runny noses, sneezing, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes during the height of allergy season. A startlingly high proportion of those sufferers are children.
If that weren’t concerning enough, many medical and environmental researchers believe that allergy seasons are getting longer as climate change worsens. When CO2 levels, plants produce more pollen for longer periods of time. This is bad news for allergy sufferers.
Why? Because antihistamines – the standard Western treatment for seasonal allergy symptoms – are known to become less effective as the season progresses. The longer the season, the fewer treatment options many Americans have. Antihistamines also have a litany of side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and mood changes, that can make them impractical for long-term use.
So, how can allergy sufferers enjoy the outdoors without loading up on expensive (and often ineffectual) medicines? Acupuncture might be the answer for many. It has been known for hundreds of years to help boost and regulate the immune system. In 2015, a team of researchers at an Australian university found that acupuncture helped patients reduce their allergy symptoms, making them more easily manageable without over-the-counter medicines. A recent meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy concluded, based on a review of thirteen clinical trials, that acupuncture is safe and effective for allergic rhinitis (itchy skin, stuffy nose, and watery eyes). The researchers found acupuncture to be particularly helpful in reducing annoying nasal symptoms.
These results are not surprising for me. Seasonal allergies are caused by the body’s hypersensitivity to elements in the environment. I have found, time and again, that when treatment is focused on clearing the nasal passages and strengthening the immune system, the body is able to stand up to allergens in a more adaptive way. This leads to increased resilience, so that my patients have less fear of environmental conditions that are outside their control – like high pollen counts.
Working with a regimen of Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help where traditional medications fall short, because practitioners of Chinese medicine personalize their treatments. The whole person is cared for, not just the person’s symptoms. Because each individual presents a unique constellation of strengths and challenges, a custom combination of treatments is a great way to achieve optimal health and overcome allergies. While herbs do help to treat the immediate symptoms, the body will benefit most from a strengthening of the overall immune system.
As warm spring weather approaches, there’s no reason to fear the buds on the trees. A regimen of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help you enjoy the season more fully. Call for a consultation today!
This post was updated on August 10, 2016