Spring allergy sufferers turn to needle treatment for natural relief

Remember all that nice warm weather we had in February and March? A lot of people may now be paying the price. That's because spring has sprung early and with that comes irritating allergies.

So, for people with allergies where trees, grass, mold and pollen are the triggers, they are likely already experiencing issues.

But instead of reaching for medication, some are looking to needles for relief.

For Bridget Ormins, her allergies have been getting more severe over the years and traditional medications just weren't doing the job by themselves. So, she decided to add acupuncture to the mix.

"I was kind of skeptical to tell you the truth," Ormins said. "But it did, it did work. I mean it worked the first time also."

Acupuncture for allergies is nothing new, but allergist Dr. Evelyn Konsur of Endeavor Health said more and more studies are revealing it has benefits and now more patients are asking for it.

"A lot of people don't like to use medications to treat their allergies," Konsur said. "Or they may be intolerant to medications and their side effects. So acupuncture is definitely an option."

Dr. Kit Lee is an associate clinical professor at Loyola Medicine who practices integrative medicine. She said more people need to realize acupuncture is a good option, especially when combined with traditional medicine.

"You've got certain chemicals in the body, certain cells that are simulated in the setting of allergies," Lee said. "And with acupuncture, you can put that into better balance so that the patients have less symptoms. It can help with histamine release."

It's all about waking up the body's own healing abilities. Tiny needles are inserted into specific points on the skin during treatment. These points correspond with energy pathways.

By targeting these areas, acupuncture can help reduce inflammation that is linked to allergies. The idea is to trigger responses in nerves and muscles, easing allergy symptoms naturally.

But do those needles hurt?

"We keep it thin for patient comfort. That's why we use a guide tube, because it is so flexible. Most patients are pretty comfortable," Lee said.

And if you're wondering, acupuncture can also work for other allergies.

"It’s actually been shown to be more beneficial in those with perennial allergies. So the year-round allergens, like dust mites, mold can be a perennial allergen and then pet allergies," Konsur said.

There are three things everyone should know about acupuncture. Not all insurance companies cover the cost. It's a time commitment of at least once a week to start. Konsur also noted its benefits have not been widely studied in children.