Acupuncture and Allergies in Children.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Allergies
Professional Data: Allergies


If you have an allergy, your body's immune system has been programmed to treat a particular substance in food or the environment as an enemy. Defending us against harmful substances is part of the immune system's job. With allergies, the immune system reacts to a substance that, for the non-allergic person, is completely harmless. Hay fever, for example, is an allergic reaction to pollen. Why do some people have hay fever, while everyone else can breathe in pollen particles with no problem? Because the immune system in the hay fever sufferer sets an allergic reaction in response to pollen molecules that come in contact with sinus passages.

IgE (immunoglobulin E) is the antibody class that is largely responsible for allergic reactions. IgE triggers a special type of immune cell called the "Mast cell" to release histamine and other potent chemicals into the blood stream. The first line of our immune defense network, Mast cells act like sentries at the places where we interface with the outside world: the intestinal tract, the sinuses, the lungs, and the skin. Mast cells come equipped with IgE antibodies positioned on their surfaces. Before joining forces with Mast cells, IgE antibodies are pre-set to recognize specific antigens. This pre-programming takes place through the activity of T cells and B cells, which are other key players in the immune system. When an antigen comes in contact with IgE antibodies, an "antigen-antibody" complex is formed. This complex signals the Mast cell to open up storage granules inside the cell that contain histamine and a host of other potent chemicals. This process is called "degranulation." Once in the bloodstream, these substances produce allergic reactions in the skin, the respiratory tract, and the gastrointestinal tract.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, enrolled children to study the effects of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in the treatment of persistent allergic rhinitis. The average age of the participants was 11 years. Thirty-five children received the active acupuncture for eight weeks while 37 received the sham treatment. Researchers recorded the number of symptom-free days, adverse effects, medication use, and blood tests among others to score the results. The results showed that those receiving active treatment had more symptom-free days and lower rhinitis scores. In addition, immediate symptom relief was seen after the active acupuncture. No difference was found in the blood test between the two groups. The authors concluded that active acupuncture was more effective although larger studies are need to ensure the safety of acupuncture in children.1


1. A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Childhood Persistent Allergic Rhinitis. Pediatrics. Nov 2004;114(5):1242-7.