Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can Acupuncture Help Fight Allergies?


Seasonal allergies start earlier than they used to
Image: Shutterstock
I don’t suffer from allergies (thank goodness), but I’m pretty sure that puts me in the minority of people. My mother gets terrible hay fever and I can remember her having to pull the car over when I was a child because she couldn’t stop sneezing. Colleagues of mine often seem sick, but when I ask, the response is always the same:

“It’s just allergies.”

Spring allergies are always the worst, with new flowers blooming, pollen and seeds being released into the air. And with global temperatures rising, spring seems to come earlier every year—which means allergies come early, too. It’s not quite March yet, but many are already feeling the first hints of spring allergies.
Lots of people suffer from seasonal allergies
Lots of people suffer from seasonal allergies
Image: Shutterstock

A study from Germany, published in Annalsof Internal Medicine, has suggested that seasonal allergies may be treated using acupuncture. Participants in the study were placed into one of two groups and either 1) given acupuncture over eight weeks alongside Zyrtec, or 2) given “fake” acupuncture over eight weeks alongside Zyrtec.

Researchers for the study commented that the results were statistically significant and showed that acupuncture did have a positive effect on those who received treatment. However, the statistical results may not translate well practically. Researchers did acknowledge that “no effect of active treatment on individual symptom severity could be shown.”

Heather Rice, a licensed acupuncturist at the University of California Ivine’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, says she’s seen acupuncture in action—and believes it works.
Acupuncture might help with seasonal allergies
Acupuncture might help with seasonal allergies
Image: Shutterstock

“One thing I notice almost immediately is that in just 30 minutes, they [patients] say, ‘Oh my God, I can actually breathe,’” she said. “I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent, but with at least 8 out of 10 people, their noses will open up. They can breathe better, and they’re not as congested.”

Whereas Western medicine requires that allergy sufferers take regular doses of antihistamines, those who favor acupuncture say that treatments are just once a week.

Unfortunately, this new study is inconclusive. Follow up will need to be conducted to determine just how helpful acupuncture really is. Thus far, there is not a wealth of scientific evidence in its favor—but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not effective, just that we haven’t proved anything yet.

For now, if you have an effective treatment for allergies, then that may be the best route. But if not, it couldn’t hurt to give acupuncture a try. After all, some people have sworn by its effectiveness.  
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