Nearly one out of five people in New Zealand suffer from hay fever. It is a type of inflammation in the nose when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air, resulting in sneezing, water nasal discharge, nasal congestion, watery eyes and so on.
Previous research indicated that acupuncture treatment was effective and safe in treating hay fever but falling short of a common treatment method, including acupoint selection, needle sensation, dosage and duration. This prompted Winnie He to devote her Master of Health Science (Chinese Medicine) thesis into finding the recommended treatment in 2018.
In traditional Chinese Medicine, hay fever is believed to be caused by insufficient yang-qi in the lung, spleen and kidney, weakening the defensive energy (weiqi). The invasion of pathogenic wind and cold air into the nose leads to the stagnation of phlegmatic dampness in the lung. And lung qi deficiency is the most common pattern in hay fever.
But New Zealand acupuncturists rely on their personal knowledge and experience in actual practice. In order to identify the most suitable therapy, Winnie conducted anonymous surveys among 40 registered acupuncturists who have treated 10 to 29 patients annually.
After three rounds of Delphi research, a consensus was reached on the set of acupoints used for treatment, including: six major acupoints, two supplementary acupoints for lung qi deficiency, three supplementary acupoints for lung with phlegm-dampness, and four supplementary acupoints for lung and spleen qi deficiency. Moxibustion is also used for better result.
In terms of needle sensation, dosage and duration, practitioners perform equally in ‘de qi’ needling sensation and needling retention and provide treatment twice a week.
According to the acupuncturists, two-thirds of their patients found acupuncture treatment ‘very effective’, making it a better alternative to western medication. But the long-term effectiveness has yet to be explored further.