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March, 2004

Spring is Here!


Flowers bloom, birds sing, bees carry the golden powder on their tiny feet, and you… sneeze. Seasonal allergies are extremely common in Houston; add that on to our highly polluted environment, and you will have many miserable Houstonians suffering through our nicest season. Then go to the drugstore and load up on prescriptions and over-the-counter allergy relievers, and you will soon find out that their cost to you well exceeds its monetary value. I am referring to all those new symptoms that are part of the medication package: fatigue, drowsiness, dryness, fuzzy thinking, nausea, palpitations, high blood pressure and a few others that can be quite serious.


A few months ago I saw a lady in her sixties, who complained of severe eye pain and blurred vision. Her symptoms were so severe, that her family brought her in quickly, and quite alarmed. The patient had been taking some medications for her allergies for a couple of days, and on my examination I suspected that she had developed what is called: "acute angle-closure glaucoma." This is an ophthalmological emergency so I transferred her immediately to the care of an excellent ophthalmologist, who confirmed the diagnosis and was able to treat her just in time. Untreated, this condition can lead to blindness, and must therefore be recognized without delay. Although a rare form of glaucoma, the use of her antihistamine-decongestant preparation may have precipitated her condition, since such medications are contraindicated in glaucoma.


An allergic response to the environment is a dysfunction of the immune system. Under normal conditions, we should all be able to enjoy the sprouting of Spring and the slumbering beauty of Fall, but when the balance between us and our environment is disturbed, we begin to sneeze, itch and tear, as we walk by that gorgeous English garden. Attempting to control disturbing allergy symptoms with drugs that may add even more disturbing side effects without accomplishing a cure, does not make much sense. And yet, that is what mainstream medicine usually has to offer allergy sufferers.


As an alternative Chinese Medicine can provide relief without side effects, and often restore immune function, eliminating the need for repetitive long-term treatments. The success of treatment greatly depends on the type of allergies, the constitution and condition of the person, and on any concomitant illnesses. Seasonal allergies are easier to treat and faster to resolve than perennial (all-year-round) allergies. Therefore, every patient will be treated differently. Some patients may respond favorably to a series of acupuncture treatments alone, others may need to combine such treatments with herbs, and the very needle-shy can be treated with herbs alone or a combination of herbs and acupressure. The ultimate goal is the reversal of the allergic condition without unwanted side effects. A more modest goal would be to control symptoms, again without side effects, by having 1 - 3 treatments before the Spring and the Fall seasons.

In our practice we have seen many happy nature lovers, who have been freed to enjoy the outdoors once again.

Christina Stemmler, M.D.

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