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About Common Cold

A common cold is an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract – the nose, throat, sinuses (small spaces in the skull behind the eyes and nose), trachea (the main airway that runs to the lungs), larynx (voice box) and bronchial tubes (the airways in the lungs).

The symptoms of common cold can include: sneezing; a blocked nose; a runny nose (rhinorrhoea); beginning with clear fluid (mucus) that often becomes a thicker, yellow/green fluid after 2-3 days; sore throat; pain when swallowing; mild fever (a high temperature between 37-38.3C or 98.6-101.0F); mild earache; tiredness; headache and coughing. The symptoms of a cold tend to be worse during the first 2-3 days and then ease over the next few days. Some colds can last up to two weeks.

Common Cold – Possible Symptoms

  • Congested nose and sinuses
  • Sore throat, maybe itchy, dry and/or painful
  • Sneezing
  • Excess phlegm and mucus
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Mild earache
  • Coughing

Western Medical View

To relieve the symptoms of a common cold, the following self-care advice may be helpful: drink plenty of non alcoholic fluids to keep yourself hydrated – this is especially important for children. Water is best, but warm drinks can be soothing.

Try to rest and avoid strenuous activity. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, but make sure that fresh air is circulating. A cough medicine may help to soothe a ticklish or dry cough.

Over-the-counter products available from your local pharmacist are often sold as combined remedies for treating a cough and common cold. Preparations may contain several ingredients and so you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you take the best dose for your symptoms.

Smoke irritates the nose and throat. Try to avoid being around people who smoke and avoid smoke-filled environments. If you are a smoker, try to smoke as little as possible while you are feeling unwell.

Raising the head of your bed slightly by placing a pillow under the mattress can help reduce coughing at night.

Also, steam inhalation, decongestants, antihistamines, paracetomol, ibuprofen or aspirin can relieve cold symptoms.

Chinese Medical View

Chinese Medicine discerns two stages to the average cold:

The early stage is mild and lasts from a few hours up to a day or two (invasion of wind and cold). These symptoms may arise following exposure to a cold draft or air conditioning or perhaps after overworking. If you are attentive, you may observe these symptoms and should treat them as soon as you notice them. You may be able to prevent them from progressing.

Early stage common cold symptoms:

  • Chilled feeling
  • Scratchy sore throat
  • Sneezing clear and runny nasal discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes in neck
  • Achy muscles
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

If this stage goes untreated, you may progress to the usual course of more severe upper respiratory symptoms (invasion of wind and heat). It requires that another kind of herbal formula be taken for a few days.

Later stage common cold symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Very sore throat
  • Yellow nasal discharge and sputum
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Cough
  • Achy muscles
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

In Chinese medicine influenza can occur as a result of exterior wind, which may manifest in the body as Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat, Wind-Damp-Heat or Wind-Dry-Heat syndrome.

Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat are the most common types. Wind-Cold impairs the function of the Lung and affects the nose, causing nasal obstruction and discharge. Yang (the essential warm energy in the body) is most likely to be damaged and this is characterized by symptoms such as chills, fever, anhidrosis, headache, even soreness and pain in the limbs as well as a white tongue coating and fast pulse. Wind-Heat often attacks the body through the nose and mouth.

The Lung is involved first. Wind-Heat is yang in nature and characterized by upward and outward dispersion. When a fight goes on between the Wind-Heat and the body’s resistance, fever, slight aversion to wind and sweating result. When Wind-Heat attacks the head, symptoms like pain and a pressure sensation occur in the head. When it attacks the Lung, a cough can develop with yellow, thick sputum.

Other symptoms include congestion, sore throat with thirst, a white or yellowish tongue coating, and a rapid pulse.

According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture can be prescribed to eliminate Wind-Cold and relieve symptoms of the common cold. Acupuncture can be combined with moxibustion (which involves igniting a cone or cylinder of moxa close to the skin) for patients with weakened constitutions. Acupuncture can also be used to eliminate Wind-Heat.

According to Chinese Medicine theory, herbal formulas can be prepared for the common cold, and also for the more pervasive variety of colds. You may need to see one of our physicians to ascertain what the best preparation may be for your particular situation.

Be sure to supplement each stage with 2 Echinacea and Vitamin C every 2 to 4 hours for up to 5 days. Most colds can be contained (if caught early) or at least be resolved in a matter of days.

Please note that this approach is appropriate only for viral cold symptoms. You should see your doctor for an evaluation if your symptoms do not resolve in 4 days, as a more intensive therapy may be necessary.”

Lifestyle Advice

For expert advice on strengthening your defences against colds, flu and other illnesses, please take a look at our special Support Your Immune System guide .

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation.

Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.