Spring is in the Air...But I can't smell it: How to get relief from Seasonal Rhinitis with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

            After what seemed like a never-ending winter of rain and snow, at last spring has come to Southern Vancouver Island. Now airborne pollens are on the rise, and so are allergies.

           Many people aren’t sure if they have seasonal rhinitis, also known as “hay-fever”. If you have itchy eyes, nose, and throat, have sneezing with a clear nasal discharge, and/or have nasal stuffiness that seem to come at the same time each year, it is likely you have it.  Some people, however, can have these symptoms continuously as they are allergic to household and environmental substances present throughout the year. Symptoms occur when your body overly responds to certain foreign substances called allergens, releasing histamine. Treatment in conventional medicine includes antihistamines, glucocorticoid sprays, and sometimes, inhalers if there is wheezing.  It is important that you see your doctor if you have any difficulty breathing. Be careful when choosing over-the-counter nasal sprays. Those with decongestants, when used for more than 5 consecutive days can cause rebound congestion, leaving you with a stubborn plugged nose. They are also not to be used by people who have high blood pressure.

           If, however, you have yellow or green nasal discharge for over 10 days, often accompanied with a headache, this may be a bacterial infection (sinusitis). If you have mild nasal stuffiness with a very sore throat and high fever, this may be a streptoccal infection— again it is prudent to see a doctor.

           TCM treats allergies in two ways. Practitioners help patients by “releasing the exterior of Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat”, which means decreasing symptoms. We also help build up your constitution, and detoxify your liver so you are less likely to succumb to allergies.  Specific acupuncture points are chosen to treat symptoms, and build “Zheng Qi”, which strengthens resistance. As in treating asthma, we often focus on these tonifying treatments when you are symptom-free, for example, in the Fall and Winter, so you will be more able to resist the allergens when they occur.  Don’t worry—it is never too late!  If you are having symptoms now, the focus of treatment is on their alleviation. Once the allergies have subsided, then the strengthening treatments can commence.

           You can help by keeping your windows closed if you are allergic to pollen, broom, or grasses. Keep windows free of mould. If you are allergic to dust mites or pet dander, then it is suggested to frequently dust, and vacuum your floors, mattress, and pillows.  A HEPA filter in your home may be beneficial.  A change in diet, a topic on its own, often decreases your symptoms. Using a Neti Pot (an Ayurvedic nasal clearing technique), or “medi-rinse” with normal saline twice a day, flushes out allergens and mucous. You can purchase the saline packets, or make the solution at home with purified water.      

           In summary, TCM can help stop and prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms. In addition, modifying your diet, identifying your allergens and taking steps to eliminate them from your environment will help you be able to stop and smell the flowers.

The above was published in the May edition of the Rural Observer at http://ruralobserver.com If you have any questions feel free to send me an email, or give me a call.