If the spring brings on allergies, commonly known as hay fever, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, 58 million Americans suffer each year from allergic rhinitis.The response is typically brought on by the release of pollen into the air, which our immune system attacks like it would bacteria and viruses. The result? A runny nose, itchy throat, watery eyes, and general feelings of unpleasantness.
If over-the-counter antihistamines aren’t bringing enough relief, studies show acupuncture helps hay fever. Perhaps the best evidence of its effectiveness comes from a 2013 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. German researchers examined 422 people aged 16 to 45, all of whom tested positive for pollen allergies. The researchers divided the participants into three groups: one which received 12 acupuncture treatments, plus antihistamines; one that received 12 treatments of faux acupuncture (meaning the needles were placed randomly instead on proven acupuncture points), plus antihistamines; and one that received antihistamines only.
After two months of treatment, 56 percent of people in the second group reported improvement in their symptoms. However, 71 percent of those treated with real acupuncture as well as antihistamines reported improvement, as well as less use of medication compared to the other two groups.
“I have seen many patients who failed medication and allergy shots respond to acupuncture,” says Dr. Patrick LaRiccia, a doctor of Internal Medicine at the Penn-Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia. “Often patients get some relief during the first visit while lying on the exam table with their acupuncture needles in place.”
Those with mild allergies may only need a few acupuncture treatments to feel substantial relief from their symptoms. However, those with chronic allergies may need to begin with two sessions a week for up to six weeks. “Patients can determine the effective of acupuncture treatment by tracking the number of sneezes per day and the number of itching episodes around their eyes,” Dr. LaRiccia explains. “After an initial series of treatments, patients can come in for further treatments as needed. Some come back once or twice a year for a booster, while others may come more often.”
If allergies stop you from fully enjoying the spring, consider ditching over-the-counter medication in favor of a more holistic approach. Schedule an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist who can design a treatment plan for your needs.