Spring is finally here, bearing new blossoms and longer, brighter days! After too many winter months spent mostly indoors, Edmontonians are eager to get outside at the first sight of greening grass, budding leaves, and blossoming flowers. But the changing of the seasons also brings out an unwelcome visitor for some — spring allergies.
Seasonal allergies are allergic reactions to a trigger that is usually only present for a specific time of the year, like spring or fall. Commonly referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies can occur due to pollen being spread by the wind. Those who are allergic to pollen may also find themselves sensitive to dust, mould, and even animal dander. Despite the numerous types of allergens that we’re exposed to in the spring, they all have one thing in common: they cause discomfort in our nasal passages, sinuses, and eyes. They can be incredibly disruptive to our daily functioning.
Springtime is mainly the worst season when it comes to allergies because of windblown pollen from trees, weeds, and other plants that are starting to bloom. On top of this, the melting of snow can release snow mould, which is known to trigger allergic reactions and leave us with runny noses. Some people may find that their allergies tend to act up in the fall due to leaf mould, but airborne mould can be found almost year-round, as can dust and animal dander.
Conventional relief of seasonal allergies
While we can all appreciate spring, especially after living through months of freezing temperatures and treacherous driving conditions as we do in Alberta, it’s also a key time for seasonal allergies. Runny noses, sneezing, and itchy eyes are symptoms that 1 in every 4 Canadians experiences. While there is no specific cure for seasonal allergies, there are over-the-counter medications that people use to combat uncomfortable symptoms.
The most common treatments for symptoms of seasonal allergies, like nasal congestion or itchy eyes, include oral medications such as antihistamines and decongestants or nasal sprays. But if you’re looking for an alternative solution that doesn’t require taking medications that cause drowsiness, or if you’re on the hunt for another allergy treatment to enhance the medicine you are already taking, you might be in luck. The World Health Organization considers seasonal allergies, including asthma and sinusitis, as respiratory diseases that are effectively helped by Acupuncture.
Seasonal allergies: An integrative approach
In its simplest form, an allergy is an exaggerated response by the immune system to a substance that is normally harmless, referred to as an ‘allergen’. Ashley Chisholm, Doctor of Chinese Medicine and one of Park Integrative Health’s Acupuncturists, explains that “in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an allergic reaction is a manifestation of the body’s difficulty to adjust to its environment. According to Chinese medicine, pattern diagnosis allergies can be from a weakness of the lungs energy or “Qi” (pronounced “chi”).
Seasonal allergy symptoms
The symptoms of seasonal allergies vary depending on the person and the amount of exposure they receive to certain triggers; however, the most common symptoms include:
- – Runny nose
- – Nasal congestion
- – Watery eyes
- – Coughing
- – Sneezing
- – Itchy eyes and nose
- – Pressure in the nose and cheeks
Seasonal allergy symptoms may worsen during certain months of the year, depending on the allergen and of course, the individual. In Canada, tree pollen peaks in the spring (late April to May), while grass and weed pollen peaks in the summer (late May to mid-July) and fall (mid-August to October). At Park Integrative Health, our Registered Acupuncturists take the time to understand your unique symptoms and the triggers that worsen them. The result is an integrative treatment plan that addresses your specific concerns, helping you to fully enjoy all four seasons with fewer symptoms from your allergies or allergy medications.
How does Acupuncture help seasonal allergies?
Managing seasonal allergies is a hassle for those experiencing symptoms. While there is no cure for allergies, the World Health Organization lists Acupuncture as an effective way to manage and control symptoms.
Registered Acupuncturist and Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Ashley Chisholm explains:
“The lungs are the first organ system to come into contact with allergens as the lungs provide our “Wei Qi” (pronounced “way chee”). Wei Qi is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Its function is to protect and defend the body against foreign substances. If Wei Qi is inadequate our protective barrier is compromised and we are vulnerable to foreign invaders such as dust, viruses, pollen and animal dander.”
This helps explain why during spring, a time when we are exposed to ‘foreign’ substances like dust, pollen, or snow mould, our allergies may act up. Ashley continues to explain that, “by building up the lung Qi and therefore the Wei Qi and facilitating the flow of it through the body, symptoms and signs related to allergies are greatly reduced.”
During your Acupuncture treatment, your practitioner will place several tiny needles into different areas of your skin. For the treatment of allergies, the needles will be placed in different points along the body than they would when treating headaches or fertility, for example.
Ashley explains how Acupuncture can help improve the immune system, reduce the symptoms associated with allergies, and improve other deficiencies or imbalances that affect how our bodies fight off foreign substances, or allergens.
“Along with a deficiency of Wei Qi, there are other TCM pattern diagnoses that can influence the severity of allergies.”
Studies show that Acupuncture helps calm the exaggerated response to allergens that are associated with spring allergies. Even during seasons when allergies are more manageable, Acupuncture can balance and strengthen the imbalances that may be contributing to your allergic reactions.
For some, Acupuncture can help minimise allergy symptoms within a few sessions. Those who experience a greater severity of symptoms may require more treatment sessions. With more intense allergy symptoms, Acupuncture can also be done in conjunction with other conventional treatments, such nasal sprays and over-the-counter medications. In order to understand your unique reactions to allergens, an in-depth consultation is provided by your Registered Acupuncturist. They will then develop a custom treatment plan that addresses your specific diagnoses and concerns. The consultation will also provide your practitioner with a sense of your overall mind-body connection, to address any potential imbalances that may be leading to the overreactions in your immune and nervous systems.
If you find yourself experiencing seasonal allergy symptoms and want relief in the form of holistic and integrative treatments or to add in conjunction with medications, book in with one of our Registered Acupuncturists.