Impact of acupuncture on antihistamine use in patients suffering seasonal allergic rhinitis: secondary analysis of results from a randomised controlled trial

Acupunct Med. 2018 Jun;36(3):139-145. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011382. Epub 2018 Feb 10.


Background: Seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) is a common disease that has detrimental effects on the quality of life (QoL) of affected individuals. Approximately 18% of patients try to alleviate their symptoms through acupuncture. The ACUSAR (ACUpuncture in Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis) study ( registration no. NCT00610584) assessed the impact of acupuncture on SAR, showing significant improvements in rhinitis-specific QoL (RQoL) and in rescue medication (RM) use.

Objective: A secondary analysis of SAR patients' use of antihistamine.

Methods: Patients were randomised into three study groups: acupuncture plus RM, sham acupuncture plus RM, and RM alone. The patients documented their medication use before and during the intervention period (8 weeks). The main outcome was the number of days with antihistamine use. Statistical analyses were conducted using parametric and non-parametric tests. The robustness of the results was tested by sensitivity analyses using non-parametric bootstrapping.

Results: The data from 414 patients were analysed. The acupuncture group used antihistamines significantly less often compared with the other groups (acupuncture vs sham acupuncture: mean difference -4.49 days, p=0.01; acupuncture vs RM: mean difference -9.15 days, p<0.001). Approximately 38% of the acupuncture group did not use any antihistamine in contrast to only 16% in the RM group. The pre-post comparison suggested that the acupuncture patients did not need to increase the days of antihistamine use to alleviate their symptoms, unlike the other groups.

Conclusions: Acupuncture appeared to significantly reduce the number of days of antihistamine use while improving RQoL and SAR symptoms; it can therefore be considered a valuable, additional treatment option for patients with SAR.

Trial registration number: NCT00610584; Post-results.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Allergy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Histamine Antagonists / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / drug therapy
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Histamine Antagonists

Associated data