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About Cough

A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus, phlegm, and irritants, such as dust, smoke or a foreign body.

It can be caused by inflammation of your upper respiratory tract (throat and windpipe) due to a viral infection. Viral infections include; the common cold, flu, laryngitis, and bronchitis. These viral infections can also spread to the lower respiratory tract (bronchi) and cause a cough.

It’s a symptom of many illnesses and conditions including: asthma, bronchitis, common cold, influenza (flu), smoking, and whooping cough (pertussis).

Possible Symptoms

  • Itchy, dry and/or painful sore throat
  • Production of phlegm and/or mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constricted lung capacity

Western Medical View

There is no quick way of getting rid of a cough that is caused by a viral infection. It will usually clear up after your immune system has defeated the virus.

However, you can take measures to treat the symptoms of the virus, including a cough. For example, you can: take over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce fever (high temperature), and to ease any aches, pains and headaches. Children under 16 should not take aspirin. Have lots to drink if you have a fever in order to prevent mild dehydration, and take a cough medicine that you can buy over-the-counter.

Chinese Medical View

According to the World Health Organisation, acupuncture has a therapeutic effect on whooping cough and may be useful in treating pertussis (whooping cough), by relieving cough as well as promoting a cure*

A cough is the main symptom of lung problems and may result either from attack by external (or environmental) factors which disturb the Qi of the Lung (the essential energy of the lungs), or from disorders of the lung itself or other diseased organs affecting the lungs.

There are two types of cough due to external factors: Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat. And two types due to internal factors: one is characterized by blockage of the Lung by phlegm and the other involves dryness of the Lung with deficiency of yin (in the Yin-Yang theory of medicine, this means an insufficiency of cooling bodily fluids).

According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be prescribed to relieve chronic cough.

Acupuncture targeting the Hand is used for the treatment of coughs due to external (environmental) factors. Both acupuncture and moxibustion (which involves igniting a cone or cylinder of moxa close to the skin) are applied in case of Wind-Cold, while only acupuncture is used in case of Wind-Heat to help relieve the symptoms. Internal injury is characterized by blockage of the Lung by phlegm and is treated by acupuncture (targeting the Foot). Acupuncture treatment, or combined with moxibustion, is usually used to strengthen the function of the Spleen and get rid of phlegm according to Chinese Medicine theory.”

Lifestyle Advice

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

Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.


Yao HH et al. [Clinical study on treatment of pertussis with acupuncture at baxie (EX:E9).] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1996, 16(11):604 [in Chinese].