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Ask an expert - body - chest - hayfever
Q: Have wondered if acupuncture would help with hay fever. I have been given steroidal nasal spray (by doctor) for severe running eyes and nose. Don`t want to keep the steroids up. Tablets (anti-histamine) make me very drowsy, although they advertise that they shouldn't. I also seem to be alergic to dust etc.
A: Hay fever is usually grouped under the generci term 'allergic rhinitis', and as the BAcC fact sheet shows
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it has been a frequently researched condition over the years because the diagnosis is easy to make from the cluster of symptoms and willing patients are plentiful. Unfortunately a great deal of the research is on too small a scale or methodologically flawed, so the results are often inconclusive, encouraging but some way short of saying that acupuncture is guaranteed to deliver. There are a number of reasons for this to do with the level of evidence required in the West, the randomised control trial, which is not the best way to assess traditional acupuncture, but even allowing for that, our clinical experience is that there are patients for whom treatment makes not a jot of difference.
That said, allergic rhinitis is not a new phenomenon, and Chinese medicine, which developed in treating people whose lives were mainly spent outdoors, has a number of ways of understanding how the symptoms present in terms of the systems of Chinese medicine and also how this can derive from a number of systemic weaknesses. This latter enterprise has been the subject of a great deal of debate amongst modern practitioners as the number of environmental factors which can create similar symptoms has escalated alarmingly. In short, Chinese medicine has a number of strategies for dealing with the various presentations of the condition, and also a way of looking at the overall health of the patient as a potential underlying factor which predisposes someone to the problem. This means that in many cases treatment is aimed at the person, not the symptoms, a strategy which underpinned a great deal of the practice of the ancients.
The received wisdom inside the modern profession is that it is better to commence treatment before the time that the condition, if it is seasonal, would norally present, and our clinical experience has been that once the condition has kicked in, a reduction in the severity of the symptoms is the best that one can hope for. If the condition is always present, it can sometimes be a long haul to bring the system back to a point where the symptoms are minor and bearable.
Each sufferer is unique and different, however, and the best thing you can do is to find a BAcC member local to you and arrange for a brief chat so that he or she can establish whether acupuncture treatment might be of benefit to you.
Q. My daughter had acupuncture for hayfever and this was very successful. She has been geting hiccups several times a day for a year now. Could acupuncture help?
A. The intermittent nature of a problem like hiccoughs means that there is little or no systematic research of whether acupuncture can help. There are a number of case reports and papers which gather up individual case studies and which appear to show that there may be some benefit, but these are a long way from conclusive.
The fact that acupuncture has been successful in treating your daughter's hay fever is a very positive sign, though. The fact that this has worked well would normally be taken as a good sign that acupuncture may well be useful in tackling other health issues. Many practitioners find that there is often one therapy which works well for a patient, and in your daughter's case this may be acupuncture treatment. It is certainly worth going back to the practitioner who helped her before and seeking his or her advice on this specific problem.