Hay Fever

Western Medicine

Most likely you or someone you know has allergies. The telltale itchy, puffy, watery eyes and red, stuffy nose signal changes in the seasons in homes and workplaces across the country. What these people suffer from is allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. The medical name for this condition refers to stuffy and itchy nose.

Hay fever is an allergic reaction. It is your immune system’s response to foreign material in the air you breathe. Hay fever usually refers to allergies to outdoor, airborne materials such as pollens and molds.

About 15-20% of the population of the United States has some degree of hay fever. It is found equally in both men and women. Usually hay fever is seasonal, but it can last all year long if the allergen stays throughout the year. Spring and fall are the main hay fever seasons.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to Chinese Medicine airborne pathogens are categorised as external wind evils. The Lungs are considered a delicate internal organ affected easily by externally invading evils particularly those entering via the nose – the sense organ associated with the Lungs. These evils disturb the lungs ability to disperse and descend the life force energy or Qi. If the Lung Qi does not descend it stagnates, accumulates and eventually counterflows upwards causing sneezing. Because the Lungs also have a role in dispersing and descending fluids in the body, dampness and phlegm can also congregate as a result and lead to nasal discharge and congestion. Wind evils in themselves cause itching and within Chinese Medicine we have the phrase “No wind, no itching”. However for these wind evils to invade in the first place the patient is believed to have an underlying weakness in the Wei Qi – or Defensive Qi. This ancient theory is remarkably similar to modern Western Medical theories if we understand Wei Qi as representing the function of the Immune System.

Therefore the treatment of Hayfever according to Chinese Medicine should address the presenting symptoms but also the underlying weakness, such that the patient’s Wei Qi is strengthened to withstand future attacks of these external pathogens.

In China, acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies have been used to successfully combat allergic rhinitis symptoms for centuries. A study in the West outlined in Allergy magazine concluded that a combination of Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture sessions is effective at relieving the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis.