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The Effects of Acupuncture on Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis FREE

[+] Article and Author Information

The full report is titled “Acupuncture in Patients With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis. A Randomized Trial.” It is in the 19 February 2013 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 158, pages 225-234). The authors are B. Brinkhaus, M. Ortiz, C.M. Witt, S. Roll, K. Linde, F. Pfab, B. Niggemann, J. Hummelsberger, A. Treszl, J. Ring, T. Zuberbier, K. Wegscheider, and S.N. Willich.


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Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(4):I-40. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-4-201302190-00001
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is a runny and stuffy nose caused by allergies, usually to plant pollen. Standard treatment is antiallergy medicine known as antihistamines; however, many people with allergies get no relief of their symptoms with this treatment. People who are not adequately treated with antihistamines and those who prefer what they consider to be more natural remedies often use nonstandard treatments for their symptoms. Acupuncture, one such treatment, is an ancient Chinese procedure that uses special needles inserted at defined points on the body to treat or prevent medical conditions. Mainstream medicine is increasingly recognizing acupuncture as an effective treatment for some disorders, but the results of past studies about acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis have been inconsistent.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To see whether acupuncture would be effective in treating the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Who was studied?

422 people who tested positive for pollen allergies and had allergic nasal symptoms.

How was the study done?

The researchers first asked the volunteers about their symptoms and about how much medicine they were using to treat them. They then randomly assigned the volunteers to 3 groups. The first group received 12 acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines as needed for their symptoms. The second group received 12 fake acupuncture treatments as a comparison with real acupuncture. They also took antihistamines as needed for their symptoms. The third group took antihistamines only, without acupuncture. At the end of treatment and 2 months later, the researchers assessed changes by remeasuring the severity of the volunteers' symptoms and the amount of medicine they were using.

What did the researchers find?

Compared with volunteers who did not have acupuncture, those who received it reported improvement in their symptoms and a decrease in their use of medication at the end of treatment. However, those differences disappeared within another 2 months.

What were the limitations of the study?

The improvements may not have been large enough to be noticeable or to make much of a difference to people. The way in which acupuncture might reduce allergy symptoms is unclear.

What are the implications of the study?

Acupuncture seemed to improve symptoms for people with seasonal allergic rhinitis, but the effects were modest and did not last much beyond treatment. The improvement might have been caused in part by the volunteers' preexisting beliefs about the treatment.

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