When you go to a doctor here in the States to address a cold or flu, the determination for treatment is typically whether an infection is bacterial or viral.
Chinese medicine does not look at colds or flus this way,
Some questions that a Chinese Medicine practitioner might ask you in regards to your symptoms will be:
Are you feeling fatigued?
Are you sweating easily or a lot?
Do you have a sore throat?
If so, is it a burning sore throat? Or just a mildly scratchy one?
Do you feel chills and/or fever? Do you feel chills more than fever or vice versa?
Do you feel feverish even though the thermometer does not say you have a temperature? (Chinese Medicine recognizes the *feeling* of feverishness as a symptom even if your body temperature is not actually elevated).
Do you have phlegm? If so, is it clear and profuse, or is it dry, yellow, sticky and difficult to eliminate?
Do you have a cough, and if so, is it dry or do
you have a lot of congestion? Is that congestion thick and yellow or clear and loose?
These types of questions help the practitioner determine a few things, such as, is the cold or flu mild or severe? Is it a hot type or a cold type? Does the patient have a strong immune system or do they need a little extra support?
Once a practitioner has determined the pattern type of a cold or flu, this helps us to select points and herbs to best help you get better.
Patient A comes in with the beginning stages of a cold that present as a mild scratchy throat, fatigue, occasional sensations of chills, a weak voice, slight sweats and some mild watery nasal congestion.
Patient B has already been sick for a couple of days and comes in with a burning sore throat, feels thirsty and dehydrated, has congestion so thick he cannot breathe through his nose at all and a loud, barking cough.
Even though in Western medicine these might both be considered a "cold", can you see how they are actually quite different?
Patient A is presenting with what in Chinese Medicine is considered a mild wind-cold with an underlying deficiency. This person would be treated with a warming herbal formula to gently promote sweating and not overwhelm the immune system.
Patient B is presenting with an excess type Phlegm-Heat pattern and would be treated with stronger, cooling herbs to clear the infection, soothe the throat, stop the cough and resolve the phlegm congestion in the sinuses.
In a previous post I mentioned a fellow acupuncturist who said that they loved Chinese Medicine because of the way it fills in the gaps where Western Medicine doesn't always have answers, and the way that colds and flu are approached is a great example of this.
Here is to hoping you stay cold and flu free this season, but if for some reason you don't, it's a good reason to come see us.