It’s that time of year when we see in our clinic more cases of the common cold and flu (influenza). Almost everyone will at some stage of their life experience a flu or cold. Some people experience them every year and some unfortunately cop it several times a year, especially during the winter months. This often shows a compromised immune system that needs rebalancing.
Generally, a common cold or flu can come and go with some proper rest and treatment. However, if not treated, it may develop into a more serious condition such as pneumonia, bronchitis, urinary bladder infection, kidney infection, etc.
TIPS ON HOW TO PREVENT CATCHING A COLD
• Wash your hands regularly. Our skin is one of our first defences against pathogens – be it a disease, virus, bacterial infection, wind-cold attack, wind-heat attack or damp-heat attack
. Dress sensibly by adding a scarf and jacket to keep warm and minimize the wind and cold coming in to your body from the outside elements
• Eat foods that are easy to digest such as broth-based soups and stews, cooked vegetables and grains, and some fish or organic meat
• Increase your Vitamin C levels with hot lemon and ginger drinks, sweetened with honey if you like
• Replace coffee with green tea and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water (preferably room temperature, not cold)
• Get plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep – 8 hours every night is desirable
• Manage your stress levels – relax, meditate and breathe. At the very least, several times a day, sit quietly with a straight back, shoulders down and open your lungs with some slow, deep breaths
COLD AND FLU SYMPTOMS
The common cold is caused by an infection of the upper respiratory tract – the nose and throat. Symptoms present such as sore/itchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, headaches, body aches, lethargy, high temperature, fever-like sweating or not at all. Generally, these symptoms last for 2 to 3 days before the body recovers to better health. If the body doesn’t recover though, the infection can progress to the next stage.
Stage Two – All of the above symptoms become worse and present with yellow/green phlegm, severe cough, tightness or pain in the chest, high fever, shortness of breath, depleted energy, persistent headache.
The common flu is caused by an influenza virus that attacks the respiratory system – from the nose and throat down to the chest, bronchial tubes and lungs. Symptoms are very similar to those of the common cold but with more severe and sudden attacks.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we believe that the change of season brings with it external pathogens that may have unfavourable influences on the body. These pathogens are Wind, Heat, Cold, Damp, Fire and Dryness and can present individually or several grouped together depending on the seasonal influence or environmental changes. It is when the protective Qi in the body is weak that we are more vulnerable to external pathogen attacks and can fall ill.
This type of cold or flu predominantly occurs during the winter season or in a cool or cold climate. Typical symptoms include a severe aversion to cold, slight temperature, sore/itchy throat, runny nose with clear nasal discharge, sneezing, cough with clear mucus, headache.
This type of attack to the body usually occurs during the summer season or in hot, windy climates. The patient often presents with symptoms such as sore throat, sneezing, cough and nasal discharge with yellow phlegm, sweating, high temperature.
This type of condition occurs more in humid and hot climates. The cold and flu caused by Damp-Heat Attack include symptoms such as constant thirst, mild sweating, lethargy and possible tightness in the chest, sneezing, blocked nose, cough with phlegm, headache, sluggish bowel movement and sticky stools. The patient often feels the presence of Heat in the body, but not necessarily have a high temperature.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Cold + Flu Tips and Tricks
It is advisable to seek professional consultation with a licensed Acupuncturist or Doctor Chinese Medicine to have your condition accurately diagnosed. Generally, TCM differentiates cold and flu according to the patterns of disharmony as well as the related root causes. Treatment methods may include herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping, dietary and lifestyle advice such as the following:
— It is best if you rest your body by slowing down your normal routine, cutting back on work and social commitments, exercising, etc
— Keep warm, especially the extremities of your body like your feet and head/throat/neck
— Drink more water – either warm or room temperature in preference to cold water
— Eat more liquid type foods such as soup, broth, stews, plus plant foods such as vegetables and fruit, cut down on meat and spicy foods. Also eat small amounts
— If others in your family, friends or work colleagues have a cold or flu, it is best to allow fresh air to circulate the room (remembering not to be in a draught though)
— Exercising good hygiene by placing your hand over your mouth while coughing and sneezing, disposing of used tissues and washing your hands regularly can help prevent the spread of germs