Introduction

Hay fever is a kind of allergic condition and commonly seen in relation to special seasons or some environmental conditions. According to NHS choice, this condition affects up to one in five people at some point in their life. Main symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, running nose, itchy and tearing eyes. Hay fever may also lead to sinusitis, causing symptoms such as blocked nose, headache, toothache and fever.

Hay fever is caused by plant pollens which stimulate allergic reactions in the upper respiratory tract. The pollens can be from tree, grass and weeds. About 90% of cases are allergic to grass pollens. Conventional medicine treatments are mainly for relieving the symptoms rather than to cure the root reason that is the allergy. These treatments include antihistamines and corticosteroids (steroids). These medications help to prevent an allergic reaction and to reduce inflammation and swelling. In addition, immunotherapy is another choice which may help to cure the allergy but it takes long time.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment

In traditional Chinese medicine theories, hay fever is believed to be closely related to Qi deficiency in the lung, spleen and kidney. Due to the Qi deficiency, the body is susceptible to the environmental pathological factors such as wind and cold, which cause running and blocking nose, itchy nose and eyes, swollen and irritated sinuses. Following the syndromes differentiation, Chinese medicine practitioners use either acupuncture or herbs to treat the conditions.

To relive the hay fever symptoms, the commonly used herbs include Fangfeng, Jingjie, chaihu, shengma, yuxingcao, xinyi, cangerzi. To treat the root reason for hay fever needs to tonify the Qi. For this, the commonly used herbs include huangqi, renshen, baizhu, gancao.

The commonly used acupoits in treatment of hay fever include fengchi, yingxiang, feishu, pishu and shenshu.

Clinical trials have shown that Chinese herbal medicines can offer symptomatic relief and improvement of quality of life for patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (Xue et al 2003; Oh et al 2012). Clinical studies in acupuncture treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis also suggested a positive result (Xue et al 2015). There are also some studies that gave an uncertain result about acupuncture treatment of allergic rhinitis (Brinkhaus et al 2013). Further clinical studies are needed in the future.

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References:

  • NHS Choice. Hay fever http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/pages/introduction.aspx
  • Xue CC, Thien FC, Zhang JJ, Da Costa C, Li CG (2003) Treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis by Chinese herbal medicine: a randomized placebo controlled trial. Altern Ther Health Med.  9(5):80-7.
  • Oh HA, Kim HM, Jeong HJ. (2012) Alleviation of allergic rhinitis symptoms with Pyeongwee-San extracts (KMP6).  Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol.  34(1):135-42. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2011.587128.
  • Xue CC, Zhang AL, Zhang CS, DaCosta C, Story DF, Thien FC.  (2015) Acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol.  115(4):317-324.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2015.05.017.
  • Brinkhaus B, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Roll S, Linde K, Pfab F, Niggemann B, Hummelsberger J, Treszl A, Ring J, Zuberbier T, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. (2013) Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med.  158(4):225-34. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-158-4-201302190-00002.