Hay fever is a common allergic reaction which occurs at this time of the year. Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, it shares symptoms with perennial (year round) allergic rhinitis, but occurs as a reaction to pollen from grass, trees and weeds during the early spring and summer months.

The well know symptoms of itchy eyes/ throat, sneezing, blocked/runny nose, headaches, blocked sinuses, shortness of breath and post-nasal drip are caused by an allergic reaction to pollen.  When these tiny particles come into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat they irritate them and the body overreacts, perceiving them as a threat, and the immune system responds as if it is being attacked by a virus.  The immune system releases a number of chemicals such as IgE antibodies, histamine, mast cells (basophils), eosinophils and cytokines designed to prevent the spread of what it wrongly perceives as an infection.

Allergic rhinitis has a high prevalence (estimated to affect one in five people in the UK) 1 and negatively impacts quality of life. Patients commonly use complementary and alternative therapies to help alleviate their symptoms of allergic rhinitis, with approximately one in five receiving acupuncture.2

There is good evidence that acupuncture can improve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis as well as quality of life 3,4

A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of 13 studies involving a total of 2,365 participants found that compared with a control group, the acupuncture treatment group had a significant reduction in nasal symptom scores, medication scores, and serum IgE, and an increase in quality of life scores.

Another 2015 review concluded that there are high-quality randomized controlled trials that demonstrate efficacy for acupuncture in the treatment of both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis; smaller studies show some preliminary benefit of acupuncture when compared with antihistamines. The meta-analysis also suggested that acupuncture was a safe and valid treatment option for patients with allergic rhinitis.

Clinical practice guidelines issued in 2015 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology include the following recommendation: “Clinicians may offer acupuncture, or refer to a clinician who can offer acupuncture, for patients with allergic rhinitis who are interested in nonpharmacologic therapy.”

 Acupuncture may help to relieve pain and congestion in people with allergic rhinitis by:

  •  regulating levels of IgE and cytokines, mediators of the allergic reaction to extrinsic allergens (Ng 2004; Rao 2006; Roberts 2008)
  •  stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987; Han 2004; Zhao 2008; Cheng 2009);
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);
  • enhancing natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008);
  • increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of  swelling. 5

To find out more about acupuncture at York Clinic take a look at our website https://www.yorkclinic.com/therapies/acupuncture/

To book an appointment for acupuncture please ring reception on 01904 709688 or email email@yorkclinic.com


1. https://www.rcgp.org.uk/about-us/news/2018/june/hay-fever-rates-smash-five-year-average-across-england-latest-rgcp-data-shows.aspx

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25943957

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25644617

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25590322

5 https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/allergic-rhinitis.html