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 the common cold can include sneezing, a blocked nose or runny nose (rhinorrhoea), sore throat, pain when swallowing; mild fever, 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.
How can we help?
Chinese Medicine has been used for centuries to effectively and, most importantly, safely address common colds and their many unpleasant symptoms. Studies suggest that acupuncture and medicinal herbs – rich in naturally anti-viral properties – can be excellent ways to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of a cold.
Although its mechanisms of action need to be further studied, Chinese Medicine seems to help ease symptoms and fast forward to feeling better, by calming inflammation and promoting circulation, and pain modulation. Additionally, acupuncture treatment might influence and regulate the immune system’s response, reducing the intensity of the symptoms.
Chinese Medicine treatments for colds vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. They usually consist of a tailored blend of acupuncture and highly personalised herb formulas, alongside lifestyle recommendations and advice. Treatments are usually aimed at restoring and strengthening immune system health and targeting any underlying imbalance while also relieving uncomfortable symptoms.
How quickly will you see results?
When it comes to colds and flu, prevention and keeping your immune system healthy are best. We usually recommend a course of 3 to 4 weeks of acupuncture sessions and herbal formulas – possibly during late summer and early fall – to help you tune up your defence system and keep your body and mind balanced.
However, if you do begin to feel the first signs of a cold, it’s not too late. Come in for treatment. In fact, acupuncture seems to bring immediate relief to most patients and helps them get over their cold symptoms quicker and with no side effects.
About Common Colds
A common cold is a kind of viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract – mostly the nose and throat – and can be caused by different viruses, the most common being the rhinovirus.
Symptoms, such as sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, tiredness, headache, sneezing and coughing start appearing within a few days of being exposed to the virus. Typically, without any medical intervention, a cold will last about a week or ten days, with symptoms being worse during the first 2-3 days and then easing over the following few days.
For some people, though, a cold can lead to other, more serious infections, like an ear infection, asthma and wheezing, sinusitis or sinus infection, bronchitis, or even pneumonia. Make sure you consult your physician if the cold doesn’t resolve in a couple of weeks.
It’s important to note that cold symptoms aren’t so much caused by the virus, but by the body’s immune system. In fact, coughing and a runny nose are the body’s way of expelling and getting the virus out of the respiratory system. For this reason, whether you opt for a conventional or a more natural approach to common colds, strengthening your immune system is crucial and will benefit your overall health in the long run.
Western Medicine view
In the Western Medicine view, colds are caused by different types of viruses that can enter your system through your own nose, mouth, or eyes and can be caught from other people and, usually, in crowded places, like schools, airports, and public transportation. Young children and people with weakened immune systems are thought to be more prone to catching colds, as are people who smoke.
Since there are no effective antivirals to cure a common cold, standard treatments focus on symptom relief and aim at making the patient more comfortable while the illness runs its course. Treatments typically include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants, and expectorants – used alone or in combination.
Some cough medicines can interact with other medications, making them inappropriate for people who have problems and might cause some side effects, like making you drowsy or irritable. So, always make sure you follow the guidelines or speak with your doctor before taking any medicine.
Chinese Medicine view
In the Chinese medical view, the common cold is believed to be caused by external or environmental and pathogenic factors, like heat, cold, wind, and dampness, coupled with a not-so-efficient defence system.
According to Chinese Medicine theories, there are two different types of cold: Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat.
Wind-Cold mostly occurs during winter or in a cold environment and typically impairs the function of the Lung ZF organ and affects the nose, causing nasal obstruction and discharge. Main symptoms include body aches, chills, clear nasal discharge, congestion, headache, mild fever, sneezing and stiff neck, as well as a white tongue coating and fast pulse.
A Wind-Heat cold mostly occurs during spring and summer or in a hot environment. It can impair the Lung ZF organ, causing a cough with yellow, thick mucus and the head, resulting in headache, pain and pressure. Main symptoms include cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, high fever, sore throat and yellow nasal discharge, as well as a white or yellowish tongue coating, and a rapid pulse.
Chinese Medicine treatments will vary depending on the type of cold and presenting symptoms and will aim at relieving symptoms while also strengthening the immune system and rebalancing the organ systems impacted.
While it is true that there is no medication you can take to get rid of a cold, there are many ways, either natural or more conventional and drug-based, you can try to take care of your cold symptoms.
Here are some self-care tips that may be helpful:
- If you are a smoker, try to smoke as little as possible, as smoke can irritate the throat.
- Get extra rest and avoid strenuous activity. If you feel fit enough, light exercise or a walk might help speed up recovery as sweat is a primary way that the body expels pathogens.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Simple water is best, but warm drinks can be soothing. Replace coffee with green tea.
- Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, but make sure that fresh air is circulating.
- Cough medicine may help to soothe a ticklish or dry cough.
- Raising the head of your bed slightly by placing a pillow under the mattress can also help reduce coughing at night.
Eat foods that are nourishing and easy to digest. If your symptoms are more “wind-cold,” add ginger, cinnamon, green onion and garlic to your foods. If your symptoms are more “wind-heat,” drink lots of peppermint tea and eat cooling fruits, like oranges and other citrus fruits. In both cases, avoid dairy, sugars and sweets and rich or fried foods.
To keep your immune system in tip-top shape try to implement some good habits in your daily routine:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Focus on a nutritionally varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Find constructive ways to manage stress, like meditation.
- Get plenty of vitamin C.
For expert advice on strengthening your defences against colds, flu and other illnesses, please take a look at our Support Your Immune System guide. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more personalised advice.
+ *CLINICAL STUDIES
Hai-Long Z, Shimin C, Yalan L. Some Chinese folk prescriptions for wind-cold type common cold. J Tradit Complement Med. 2015 Feb 10;5(3):135-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jtChinese Medicinee.2014.11.035. PMID: 26151024; PMCID: PMC4488566.
Cheng Y, Gao B, Jin Y, Xu N, Guo T. Acupuncture for common cold: A systematic review and meta-analyze protocol. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Mar;97(10):e0061. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000010061. PMID: 29517665; PMCID: PMC5882456.