That season is upon us. No, not winter but its but its potentially nasty cousin, the cold and flu season.
For many of us colds and flu are just another part of life that we just have to suffer through, by spending unnecessary amounts of money on trips to the Dr, cold and flu tablets, sore throat lozenges, cough syrup and any other product “they say” will help. Though at best all these treatments can do is treat the symptoms.
One major misconception is many people uses the terms “cold and flu” interchangeably. But in reality there are major differences.
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- mild-to-moderate fever
- headache or body aches
- mild tiredness
According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 100 different viruses can cause the common cold. However, the rhinovirus is most often the one that makes people sneeze and sniffle, and it’s highly contagious. Other frequent cold-causing pathogens include coronaviruses and respiratory syncytial viruses. Most cold-causing viruses thrive in environments with low humidity, which may be why colds are more common during the fall and winter months. However, you can catch a cold any time of year.
- dry, hacking cough
- moderate-to-high fever (although not everyone with the flu will run a fever)
- sore throat
- shaking chills
- severe muscle or body aches
- stuffy and runny nose
- profound fatigue (may last up to two weeks)
Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, but this is more common in children.
The seasonal flu is caused by the influenza A, B, and C viruses. Active strains of influenza virus vary from year to year. That’s why a new flu vaccine is formulated and released each year.
Even though there are differences in the signs and symptoms, you can see how the terms cold and flu become interchangeable.
Colds usually clear up within a few days. Though there are many over the counter products that help reduce the signs and symptoms, such as: Cold and flu tablets, anti-histamines, throat lozenges, and cough syrup. (Many Dr’s are also known for prescribing antibiotics for this, which is ridiculous, unless there is a bacterial infection)
Flu’s treatment in most cases, fluids and rest are the best treatment. Over-the-counter treatments, very similar to the ones that treat colds, may control your symptoms and help you feel better. However, never give aspirin to children. It can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs — oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab) — to treat the flu. These drugs can
shorten the duration of the flu and prevent complications such as pneumonia, but you need to take them within the first 48 hours of getting sick in order to have a positive impact.
Another major difference between a cold and flu is. If you have the influenza virus, you can be bed ridden for up to 6 weeks.
So we have covered all of the western medical diagnosis’s of cold and flu. But did you know that acupuncture and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) actually can treat the cause and not just the symptoms?!
TCM looks at colds and flu from a much more macro/esoteric viewpoint.
When referring to a cold or flu a TCM practitioners diagnosis is usually known as “wind cold or wind heat”. In other words the invasion of an external pathogen, sounds familiar? This can also include another “wonderful” winter diseases such as tonsillitis.
Signs & Symptoms: Wind Cold
- An invasion of wind-cold is made possible when the Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) of the person is temporarily weaker than the force of the Pathogen. Weakened Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) may come about as a result of emotional stress, overwork, poor diet and a host of other factors.
- Strong and/or frequent changes in environment also play a role (i.e. the effects of going outside on a cold winter day from a heated home).
- Patient may have: An aversion to cold, shivering, low or no fever, chills predominated over feelings of heat, no sweat, occipital headache, stiff neck, body aches, slight cough, sneezing, running nose w/white discharge.
- Tongue: Thin white coating (indicates cold) or normal (indicates wind)
Pulse: Floating, tight (indicates cold predominates) – Floating, slow (indicates wind predominates)
Signs & Symptoms: Wind Heat
- Similar Wind invasion via weakened Wei Qi as described above in Wind-Cold but patient presents with heat signs.
- Patient may have: Fever and Chills w/Fever predominating, slight sweating, runny nose w/yellow discharge, headaches, body aches, cough, sore throat (more severe than wind-cold), slight thirst.
- Tongue: Red Sides
Pulse: Floating and Fast
Both of these diagnoses are commonly treated using acupuncture and in severe cases acupuncture and herbal medicine.
As a further point of interest, if you have ever have suffered from tonsillitis and your Dr has treated you with antibiotics. The antibiotics, (in my experience), only work in the case of wind heat.
I hope this has given you a general understanding of colds and flu from and east and west perspective. With the conclusion, you don’t always need to see a Dr for treatment of cold and flu symptoms. Though, when its sever go straight to the Dr or hospital.