The study, of 422 people with grass and pollen allergies, found that those randomly assigned to a dozen acupuncture sessions fared better than patients who did not receive the procedure.
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On average, they reported greater symptom improvements and were able to use less antihistamine medication over eight weeks. The advantage, however, was gone after another eight weeks, according to findings reported in the Feb. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that acupuncture’s benefits fade, said lead researcher Dr. Benno Brinkhaus, of Charite-University Medical Center in Berlin.
Hay fever symptoms were much better in all three study groups by week 16, and Brinkhaus said that’s probably because pollen season was dying down at that point.
The study was well done and “positive,” because acupuncture seemed helpful, said Dr. Harold Nelson, an allergist at National Jewish Health, a Denver hospital that specializes in respiratory diseases.
But Nelson doubted whether the time, inconvenience and expense of acupuncture sessions would seem worthwhile to many hay fever sufferers — especially because there are simpler ways to manage the condition.
“I don’t know how many people will want to wait in an acupuncturist’s office, then sit with 16 needles in them for 20 minutes, and do that 12 times, when they could use a nasal spray,” Nelson said.