In February, I, like many of my peers in cooler climes, long for the spring. The dog days of winter are short and cold, and the finish line appears extremely blurred at this time. But even the joy of spring doesn’t come without a hitch for millions of Americans. Why? Allergies, of course.
When the flowers bloom and life starts growing, the air can become an enemy for roughly one in every six Americans who are affected by allergenic rhinitis. The sneezing, sniffling, and runny nose is no fun for anybody.
I experience allergic reactions throughout the spring and summer, and often, they can hit like a ton of bricks out of nowhere. Unfortunately, I’m often ill-prepared and forced to deal with the heavy wrath they impose. But as I’ve recently learned, new techniques of treating nasal allergies are coming to the forefront and have been found to be effective. And these new treatments, thankfully, aren’t coming by way of big pharma or more shots to your arm. In fact, one of these “new” allergy treatments is an ancient practice that’s been used for centuries, but is now only getting sufficient data to prove its effectiveness in modern conditions. What is it? Acupuncture.
Acupuncture Improving Quality of Life for Allergy Sufferers
People who suffer from allergies know how badly they can impact your quality of life. Ragweed season, for example, makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep or concentrate during the day, and it tends to increase stress by knowing that at any time you could break out in an allergy attack. And no, these attacks and inconveniences might not kill you, but they surely don’t make life enjoyable.
However, there is a growing body of work that shows the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture might help relieve the symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with perennial allergic rhinitis—allergies that are present year-round, such as allegies to dust mites and animal dander—and seasonal allergies, too. It’s even been noted as an effective treatment by the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
One of the most notable studies to showcase the effectiveness of acupuncture as a tool for allergy relief was published in July 2014. It used a method called ear acupressure (EAP), which is a non-invasive semi-self administered form of acupuncture.
EAP Acupuncture for Allergy Relief
EAP is essentially a form of reflexology that targets certain stimulation points in the ear. It’s believed that there are a number of pluripotent cells in the ear—cells that give rise to all cells in the body and contain organized information about specific parts. When a reflex is stimulated in this area of the ear, it may relieve symptoms in another area of the body for a noticeable period of time, like your response to allergens.
Participants in the EAP study were treated once a week for eight weeks, then went through a 12-week follow-up period. They were instructed to administer EAP three times per day. The 245 participants were randomly assigned to either a group that received the real acupuncture treatment or a group that received a fake treatment. Following the study, the group that received the proper EAP treatment showed definite improvement.
The real EAP group recorded higher quality of life scores and reduced allergy symptoms (runny runny nose, puffy eyes, etc.), proving there were clear benefits to this form of acupuncture to treat allergies.
Another Allergy-Fighting Alternative to Allergy Shots
If there are any drawbacks to acupuncture therapy, it’s that it might be a little too time-consuming and inconvenient for some. You have to learn how to properly administer it, then do it multiple times a day. Depending on your lifestyle, that just might not be realistic for you. Another treatment to consider, then, is sublingual immunotherapy.
This treatment was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 after years of analysis. As an alternative to allergy shots (injections), this form of treatment involves small doses of allergens placed under the tongue that dissolve in your mouth, so you digest trace amounts of the allergen. The idea is that you build up a tolerance. It’s essentially the same principle as getting a weekly allergy shot. Most studies have shown positive results, but administration is more frequent than a needle. To take full advantage of this method, you’ll need to ingest the allergen about three times per week, with about three to five years required to build an immunity. It might seem like a long time, but it’s been found to be just as effective as allergy shots.
Start Now So You’re Ready for Spring!
Because these treatments help tackle allergies year-round, they can be of immediate benefit. Furthermore, their benefits are cumulative, so the sooner you start administering them, the better and faster they are likely to take effect, making them more likely to work effectively once the spring allergy season arrives.
Also Read :
- Have a Milk Allergy? Switching to Organic May Be Your Answer
- Are You Allergic to Fruits and Vegetables?
- 5 Myths about Allergies—Debunked!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Seidman, M.D., et al., “Clinical Practice Guideline: Allergic Rhinitis,” American Academy of Otolaryngology web site, 2015; http://www.entnet.org/content/clinical-practice-guideline-allergic-rhinitis, last accessed February 5, 2015.
Gori, L. and Firenzuoli, F., “Ear Acupuncture in European Traditional Medicine,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine September 2007; 4(Suppl 1): 13–16, doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem106.
Zhang, C., et al., “Ear acupressure for perennial allergic rhinitis: A multicenter randomized controlled trial,” American Jounal of Rhinology & Allergy July–August 2014; 28(4): e152–7, doi: 10.2500/ajra.2014.28.4081.
“Sublingual Immunotherapy,” American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology web site, 2014; http://acaai.org/allergies/treatment/sublingual-immunotherapy-slit, last accessed February 23, 2015.