The heat of summer is gone and the cooler autumn has arrived. Brisk weather and fresh air make this a good season to enjoy nature.
But people suffering from seasonal allergies don’t find it so enjoyable. While we are enjoying the great outdoors, they are busy sneezing, coughing, and dealing with itchy eyes and a runny nose. To these people, it seems that as soon as the seasons change, their symptoms come.
These types of allergies are known as allergic rhinitis. In Chinese medicine, allergic rhinitis is mainly thought to be caused by weak lung, spleen, and kidney energy, which are considered to be “cold” when their energy is deficient. When the lungs are cold, it is easy to get sick and start sneezing. The spleen being cold causes diarrhea, bloating, indigestion, and a stuffy nose when consuming cold foods. When the kidneys are cold, the body feels cold, so it cannot fend off chills and this also creates weakened physical stamina. Chinese medicine considers that cold weather and certain foods can both cause damage to the lungs.
When the body is affected by cold temperatures, such as when walking in the rain or swimming in cold water, or when consuming cold drinks or foods, the nose will start blocking up and the person will start sneezing. Some people may think showering in cold water in winter is good training for the body. It may be okay if you possess a certain kind of physical makeup, but it is more likely that you will end up having watering eyes and a runny nose.
In Western medicine, the “cure” for allergies is to take antihistamines. A spray to the nostrils can instantly relieve the symptoms. All three duration types of antihistamine — namely long-, medium-, and short-acting — target mast cells in the blood, which are responsible for the release of histamine when activated. After its release, histamine causes the blood vessels to expand and tissues to produce mucus. This makes the nose run. Antihistamines functions to stop the mast cells from triggering the release of histamine and thus put an end the runny nose. One side-effect of antihistamines is drowsiness. The over-the-counter sleeping aids sold at drugstores are all actually antihistamines.
In the eyes of Chinese medicine doctors, when someone has allergies, it tells them there is a deficiency of vital energy, which is chronic and relatively hard to cure. People suffering from it keep sneezing and experiencing a runny discharge. Western medicine only treats the symptoms of seasonal allergies, so the condition will occur year after year. Comparatively, the Eastern cure is to warmly nourish the lungs, spleen, and kidneys. When the kidneys become a bit stronger, it makes the mast cells less readily activated and thus stops the runny nose symptoms.
Translated by Cecilia