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For relief from spring allergies, think outside the box

By: Lisa Russell


Acupuncture can be an effective alternative treatment for seasonal allergies.

Spring has arrived at long last … and with it the itchy-eyed, nose-blowing miseries of the annual allergy season in St. Louis, consistently ranked one of the nation’s “most challenging places to live” for those with seasonal allergies by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America.

Conventional treatment for spring allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, generally involves oral and nasal spray antihistamines and decongestants, nasal corticosteroid sprays, and eyedrops. But these medications sometimes come with bothersome side effects, and what works well for some allergy sufferers may not benefit others.

A number of herbs and supplements have also been recommended to treat spring allergies. They may prove useful for those who don’t want to rely on medications alone, or who prefer a more natural treatment approach. These include butterbur, quercetin, stinging nettle, turmeric and omega-3 fatty acids. While some studies point to improvements in allergy symptoms for people using these substances, others are inconclusive.

However, another type of allergy treatment which doesn’t come from a box – or a prescription bottle for that matter – has been shown in several studies to benefit allergy sufferers. Acupuncture, the ancient Chinese therapy dating back more than 5,000 years, helps to balance the body’s immune system and target allergies from within, according to Dr. Aimee Jokerst, a health center clinician at Logan University’s Montgomery Health Center. A practicing chiropractic physician for 22 years, Dr. Jokerst has a 19-year fellowship in acupuncture along with a certification in acupuncture orthopedics, and said she has used the therapy to address many health conditions in her patients, from allergies to anxiety.

“Acupuncture is a fantastic alternative therapy. It’s been around for thousands of years and is very versatile. I have done acupuncture on thousands of patients in my 19 years, and I’ve maybe seen one person who didn’t benefit,” she said.

The hairlike needles used in acupuncture work to stimulate the meridian system, which is a system of energy pathways or channels that run through the body. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on keeping the body in a state of balanced homeostasis; acupuncture helps to correct and rebalance the flow of energy, targeting areas of the brain which actually heal the immune system, Dr. Jokerst explained.

In treating allergies with acupuncture, there are specific points in the face and head where needles are placed, along with distal points in the arms and legs. Each treatment boosts the immune system while also helping to dispel some of the mucus in the body, she said.

A virtually painless procedure, acupuncture generally produces fairly rapid improvements in symptoms, Dr. Jokerst said.

“Sometimes people will notice relief immediately, sometimes in an hour or a couple of days. Most notice improvement pretty quickly, but I tell people if they’re coming for a specific condition to give it four to six visits to really see a benefit,” she added. “Although I can’t guarantee 100 % results for everyone – the level of benefit is dependent on the person – just about everyone does see results.”

On the calendar

A Babysitting 101 class is offered by BJC of St. Charles County on Saturday, April 20 from 1-5 p.m. at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library, 2750 Hwy. K in O’Fallon, in Room A. This class is a great introduction to the basics of babysitting; topics include the business of babysitting, child development, safety and first aid, and fun and games. A workbook, backpack and light snack are provided. The course fee is $30 per child. Advance registration is required by calling (636) 344-5437.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Family and Friends CPR course on Wednesday, April 24 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. The course provides instruction and hands-on practice for parents and childcare providers for adult hands-only CPR; infant and child CPR with breaths; introduction to adult and child AED use, and relief of choking, using the American Heart Association curriculum. Participants are not certified but will receive a certificate. Participants under 15 must be accompanied by an adult; the cost is $25 per person. Register online at https://classes-events.bjc.org.

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An American Red Cross community blood drive is on Thursday, April 25 from noon-4 p.m. at two BJC locations: Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1; and Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. Appointments are not required but may speed the donation process. Use sponsor codes BJSTPETERS or PROGRESS WEST when signing up online at redcrossblood.org or by phone at (800) 733-2767.

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BJC of St. Charles County offers free Know Your Numbers Health Screenings for adults on Thursday, May 2 from 9-11 a.m. at Kisker Road Branch Library, 1000 Kisker Road in St. Charles. Tests include fasting glucose, lung function, blood pressure and BMI screenings. Participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening. To register, call (636) 928-9355 for an appointment.

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St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Staying Home Alone class on Tuesday, May 7 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Spencer Road Branch Library, 427 Spencer Road in St. Peters, in Room 112. This class, designed for parents and children to attend together, will help determine a child’s physical, mental, social and emotional readiness to stay home alone and prepare them for this experience. The course fee is $25 per family. To register, call (314) 454-5437.

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Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital sponsors a free monthly Kids Can! Support Group for children ages 4-12 who have a parent or caregiver diagnosed with cancer. The group meets on Wednesday, May 15 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the hospital’s Medical Office Building 1, 6 Jungermann Circle in St. Peters, in Suite 117.

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