Allergic Rhinitis (AR)
What is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis, more commonly referred to as hay fever, is an inflammation of the nasal passages caused by allergic reaction to airborne substances.
Allergic rhinitis (AR) is the most common allergic condition and one of the most common of all minor afflictions. It affects nearly 1 in 4 of all people in Australia, and is responsible for 2.5% of all doctor visits.
The main clinical manifestations of AR are: sneezing, watery nasal discharge, nasal itching, and nasal congestion, may be associated with eye symptoms, including itchy eyes, tears, red eyes, and burning sensation. In about 40% of AR patients symptoms by be complicated with bronchial asthma, in addition to nasal symptoms, they may also have pulmonary symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
There are two types of allergic rhinitis: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal AR (SAR) occurs in the spring, summer, and early fall, when airborne plant pollens are at their highest levels. In fact, the term hay fever is really a misnomer, since allergy to grass pollen is only one cause of symptoms for most people.
Perennial AR (PAR) occurs all year and is usually caused by home or workplace airborne pollutants, such as dust, house-dust mites’ faecal matter, fungal spores and animal dander. A person can be affected by one or both types. Symptoms of seasonal AR are worst after being outdoors, following exposure to pollen particles, while symptoms of perennial AR are worst after spending time indoors.
Both types of allergies can develop at any age, although onset in childhood through early adulthood is most common. Although allergy to a particular substance is not inherited, increased allergic sensitivity may “run in the family.” While allergies can improve on their own over time, they can also become worse over time.
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) View Allergic Rhinitis
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), allergic rhinitis is known as nasal blockage and is due to an over-reactivity of the immune system to certain allergens. This is a result of an underlying deficiency of the Lung and Kidney’s Defensive-Qi systems (immune system) together with retention of chronic Wind in the nose.
With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (SAR) there is an acute stage which is due to wither Wind-Cold (allergen plus climatic Cold) or Wind-Heat (allergen plus climatic Heat) entering the nose and causing an allergic reaction. The chronic underlying condition is one of deficient Lung and Kidney Defensive-Qi and the Governing Vessel.
The Perennial Allergic Rhinitis (PAR) is also a manifestation of deficient Lung and Kidney Defensive-Qi and the Governing Vessel, but without a seasonal aspect to it.
Traditional Treatment Approach of Allergic Rhinitis in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In SAR – during an acute phase, which usually only occurs during the flowering season(s), the Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold invasion is treated. Once the acute phase is resolved, attention is given to strengthen the underlying weakness of the Lung and Kidney’s Defensive Qi and the Governing Vessel.
The treatment of SAR is specifically structured to address the particular aspect; that is, the acute phase or the chronic underlying aspect of SAR. With PAR however, both the acute and underlying aspect of the rhinitis is addressed simultaneously, because the symptoms are present the whole year round.
Both SAR and PAR are treated in Chinese medicine with acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine. Both can be used individually or in combination with each other. At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre we generally combine Acupuncture with Chinese herbal formulas for best results.
What You Can Do To Help Yourself
Reducing exposure to pollen may improve symptoms of SAR.
Strategies include the following:
- stay indoors with windows closed during the morning hours, when pollen levels are highest
- keep car windows up while driving
- use a surgical face mask when outside
- avoid uncut fields
- learn which trees are producing pollen in which seasons, and avoid forests at the height of pollen season
- wash clothes and hair after being outside
- clean air conditioner filters in the home regularly
- use electrostatic filters for central air conditioning
Moving to a region with lower pollen levels is rarely effective, since new allergies often develop
Preventing PAR requires identification of the responsible allergens.
- keep the house dry through ventilation and use of dehumidifiers
- use a disinfectant such as dilute bleach to clean surfaces such as bathroom floors and walls
- have ducts cleaned and disinfected
- clean and disinfect air conditioners and coolers
- throw out mouldy or mildewed books, shoes, pillows, or furniture
- vacuum frequently, and change the bag regularly. Use a bag with small pores to catch extra-fine particles
- clean floors and walls with a damp mop
- install electrostatic filters in heating and cooling ducts, and change all filters regularly
- avoid contact if possible
- wash hands after contact
- vacuum frequently
- keep pets out of the bedroom, and off furniture, rugs, and other dander-catching surfaces
- have your pets bathed and groomed frequently
Bao, H., Si, D., Gao, L., Sun, H., Shi, Q., Yan, Y., Damchaaperenlei, D., Li, C., Yu, M., & Li, Y. (2018). Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: A systematic review protocol. Medicine, 97(51), e13772. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000013772
Marciocia, G. (1994) The Practice of Chinese Medicine: The Treatment of Disease with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs, Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Taw, M. B., Reddy, W. D., Omole, F. S., & Seidman, M. D. (2015). Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis. Current opinion in otolaryngology & head and neck surgery, 23(3), 216–220. https://doi.org/10.1097/MOO.0000000000000161
The Free Medical Dictionary https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/allergic+rhinitis last visited: 30/06/2021