Summer Allergies – An Acupuncturist’s Perspective

Woman sneezing
Woman sneezing (Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The warmer weather and longer days makes such a welcome change after the long dark and wet Scottish winter. It is glorious to see all the flowers and blossom blooming. It seems decidedly unfair that this can mean the arrival or exacerbation of allergies. An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to something in the environment which would normally be harmless. Its this reaction that causes the irritating and even debilitating symptoms. Allergies can present in a variety of different ways. Most commonly people associate the Spring with hayfever (allergic rhinitis) and its symptoms of runny/blocked nose, incessant sneezing, red itchy eyes and headaches. However, other allergies such as eczema, asthma and even migraines can also get worse for some in the summer months. These allergic reactions can be caused by allergens which is the collective term for anything provoking this reaction and includes pollen, man-made environmental pollutants, dust and animal dander which also increases as furry animals shed their winter coats.

A recent study (Acupuncture in Patients with Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomised Trial) showed acupuncture can be an effective treatment. So how does acupuncture help? Chinese medicine evolved over several millennia with an Eastern philosophical framework and without the use of microscopes and blood tests to identify environmental pollutants or measure increased immunoglobins. Nevertheless, it recognised and identified the invasion of pathogenic factors causing the symptoms we call allergies. The impact these pathogenic factors can have depends on the individual person’s constitution and the relative strength of the pathogen. Its for this reason that Chinese medicine (which encompasses acupuncture and Chinese dietary therapy) recognises that people can be more susceptible to allergens depending on what’s been going on in their lives, what their constitution is like, what the surrounding environmental conditions are and what foods they have been eating. What’s more, Chinese medicine has a diagnostic framework that combines these factors allowing practitioners to formulate a treatment that will not only address the immediate symptoms for example, itching or sneezing, but also the underlying causes. Using the appropriate acupunctures points can help to expel the pathogen, alleviating the symptoms and can help to strengthen the body’s defences and constitution to minimise future attacks. Moreover, using the principles of Chinese dietary therapy, traditional acupuncturists can provide easy to follow general dietary advice that will help further reduce sensitivities to allergens.

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