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Common Illnesses

TCM Perspective: Types of Flu & Cold

By EYSI. 27 Jan 2014

A common cold is caused by viral infections of the upper respiratory tract- the nose and throat. Symptoms exhibited include running nose, sore throat, cough, tearing eyes and sneezing.

A common flu is caused by influenza viruses that attack the respiratory system, which runs from the nose and throat to the bronchial tubes and lungs. It carries symptoms similar to that of the common cold, but with sudden attacks.

TCM believes that changing seasons bring with them external pathogens that may have unfavourable influences on your body. There are six general groups of external pathogens, namely Wind, Heat, Dampness, Fire, Dryness and Cold. Depending on the seasonal influence or environmental changes, groups of external pathogens may occur together.

The symptoms of the common cold and flu come as a result of the battle between the ProtectiveQi (Zhengi, 正气, which has a similar concept to immunity) of the body and the external pathogens. When the Protective Qi in your body is weak, you are more vulnerable to pathogen attacks, thus falling ill.

Disharmony Patterns of the Common Cold and Flu 

In general, TCM differentiates cold and flu according to the patterns of disharmony, as well as the related root causes. The most common ailment-causing patterns are Wind-Heat, Wind-Cold and Dampness. It is advisable to seek professional consultation from a licensed physician to have your condition accurately diagnosed.

• Wind-Heat Pattern

Cold and flu symptoms caused by Wind and Heat pathogens are more prevalent during spring and summer, and at places with tropical climates. Common symptoms include a high body temperature; a difficulty in sweating; a slight aversion to the wind; a sore throat and turbid nasal discharge with yellowish phlegm.

Treatments are aimed at expelling out the heat and cooling the body. Examples of herbs which are used include Fructus Forsythiae (lian qiao, 连翘) and Flos Lonicera (honeysuckle flower, 金银花).

• Wind-Cold Pattern

The cold and flu caused by Wind and Cold pathogens, commonly occur during winter or in a cool or cold environment. Symptoms include a severe aversion to cold; a slight increase in body temperature; no sweating; running nose with clear nasal discharge; chest congestion; sneezing; an itching throat; cough with clear mucus.

Treatment methods such as herbal remedy, acupuncture or cupping are usually employed to ease the wind-cold symptoms. Herbs used will usually be warm in nature, such as Folium Perillae (Zi Su Ye, 紫苏叶) and Ramulus Cinnamomi (Gui Zhi, 桂枝), which aim to induce sweating to dispel the cold and wind pathogenic factors from the body.

• Dampness Pattern

Individuals with the cold and flu caused by Dampness pathogens will constantly feel the presence of Heat in the body but have no significant increase in body temperature. Other symptoms include constant thirst with mild sweating; fatigue; lethargy and an occasional chest tightness.

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