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4 questions

Q: My son has terrible hay fever and I want to know if acupuncture is any good in illeviating this and who would be the best person to go to near to Newcastle under Lyme to treat the condition

A: There isn't a great deal of research under the heading of 'acupuncture and hay fever' on which we can draw for evidence of the success of acupuncture treatment, and what we do have on our website is a factsheet for allergic rhinitis with which there i very considerable overlap.

We have checked the databases, though, and while you will find occasional studies like this one

there are not as many as you might expect. We suspect that this is because the random timing of the occurrence of the problem makes it difficult to assemble a cohort of sufferers to run the trial.

The one thing we can say with certainty, though, is that it often helps to start treating two or three months before someone would normally start their symptoms in order to achieve the best results. Once the problem has started and bedded in it can be a great deal harder to address. Treating the person rather than the symptom is central to Chinese medicine, so working in advance of seasonal symptoms is quite a normal pattern of work anyway and one which would probably strengthen the immune system. We often find that sufferers still get small traces of symptoms but nothing like the effects they have had in the past.

You haven't mentioned whether your son is a child or not. If he is, then this bodes well for treatment. Children are not simply small adults, and many members undertake postgraduate training in paediatric acupuncture to work with children. We cannot make recommendations but we ran a quick google search using key words like your home town, acupuncture and children, and quickly generated some interesting results.

Hay fever comes in all shapes and sizes, though, and it would be best for you to see if someone is prepared to take a look at your son and see what they think. Most of our colleagues are more than happy to give up a little time without charge to talk to prospective patients, and we find this works to everyone's advantage.

In our experience younger children respond very well to treatment, often requiring minimal intervention to get really significant results. If your son doesn't fancy needles, though, we cna say that Chinese Herbal medicine and classical homeopathy both see, in our view, to offer some interesting alternatives. Both have received quite bad press over the last few years, but we have seen many patients whose experience of both modalities has been very good.

Q:  I am a 27-year-old male, with chronicle hay fever and dust allergies. My doctor advices me to have allergy shots but we had to postpone it, because I am studying in the UK minimum until September. As far as i know, here they do not ractice such a treatment, only temporary reliefs with antihistamines. But I need a permanent treatment. Do you think acupuncture would help me with my dust mite allergies?

A:  We have to admit that we were rather surprised when we researched this topic to provide you with an answer. There are a couple of reasonably well-designed trials

which appear to show that acupuncture treatment is at least as effective as drug treatment for the problems of dust mite allergy. Because the funding of trials is something of an issue, we had not suspected that many would have been done, especially in the West. Many Chinese studies exist, but few are translated.

Of course, one of the issues we have to contend with is that from a Chinese medicine perspective the allergic response would be different in each individual because the manifestation of the problem arises from the unique balance of the patient's energies. The symptom may be the same, but the cause (not the mite which is the trigger) can be very different in each case. The
strength of Chinese medicine is that it does not simply treat the symptom, but it tries to establish why this symptom in this individual and why now.

Because everyone is unique and different, we would not be able to say without qualification that acupuncture treatment would definitely help you. In order to have a better idea of this your best bet would be to visit a BAcC member local to you for a brief face to face assessment of what might be possible. However, we always advise people, if they do choose to have treatment, so set very clear markers for measuring progress, and to review treatment on a regular basis. It can be very easy to run up a large bill
getting nowhere, so it is important to be able to find objective markers which can measure progress, and to see whether the progress made justifies the time and expense involved.


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
Please click here

 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.

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