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Hayfever & Allergic Rhinitis

With the onset of Spring, comes allergic rhinitis (allergies and hay fever) which affects around 10-40% of the population worldwide, and can have a substantial health and economic impact on the community. Evidence suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative treatment to conventional antihistamines and corticosteroids. With 2.3 million treatments carried out each year, acupuncture is one of the most popular complementary therapies practised in the UK today.

Allergic rhinitis symptoms include sneezing, nasal itching, nasal blockage, and watery nasal discharge as well as red itchy, tearing eyes, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath and itchy, swollen throat. Systemic symptoms such as tiredness, fever, a pressure sensation in the head, and itchiness may also be experienced. Allergic rhinitis may impair quality of life, interfering with work, sleep, and recreational activities.

The aim of conventional treatments for hay fever is to minimise or eliminate symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of developing coexistent disease such as asthma or eczema. Drug treatments include oral and topical antihistamines, oral and intranasal corticosteroids and decongestants.

Evidence from systematic reviews suggests that acupuncture may be a safe and effective treatment for allergic rhinitis with benefits over conventional medicine. Acupuncture can help to relieve symptoms of perennial rhinitis and that ear acupressure has a similar efficacy to antihistamines. Recent randomised controlled trials have found that acupuncture used as an adjunct to routine care for allergic rhinitis has clinically relevant and persistent benefits, is cost effective and increases the symptom-free days.

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's ability to regulate itself, thus promoting physical and emotional wellbeing. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress. Acupuncture may help to relieve pain and congestion in people with allergic rhinitis by regulating levels of the allergic reaction to external allergens; reducing inflammation; increasing local microcirculation, which aids dispersal of swelling; and enhancing natural killer cell activity and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types.

spring blossom hayfever allergic rhinitis acupuncture


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