Coughs and Colds

What We Say Versus What We Mean – Part II: Coughs and Colds

Coughs and colds are common illnesses that people tend to brush off as just a nuisance.

However, they can have a significant impact on our daily lives and are often indicators of weakened immune function. Western medicine tends to classify all coughs and colds as the same illness, with similar symptoms and treatments. In contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees each cold as a unique combination of symptoms and underlying causes.

In this blog, we will explore the difference between Western terminology and descriptions of coughs and colds versus TCM.

The common cold usually involves symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and a sore throat. In Western medicine, these symptoms are typically attributed to viral infections. However, in TCM, coughs and colds are seen as a result of imbalances in the body’s organ systems, triggered when pathogenic factors such as wind, heat, and dampness invade the body.

TCM categorizes coughs and colds into three main types: wind-cold, wind-heat, and damp invasion.

Wind-cold symptoms are associated with a runny nose with clear or white phlegm, a mild fever, chills and aversion to cold, achy joints, and headaches. This type of cold is often slow to progress and may last for a few days.

Wind-heat symptoms, on the other hand, are associated with a sore throat, a cough with thick yellow phlegm, a fever, sweating, and thirst. This type of cold is often fast to progress and may last for a few days.

Damp invasion symptoms are associated with fatigue, a sensation of heaviness in the limbs and head, a cough with sticky phlegm, and a lack of appetite. This type of cold may last for several days to a week.

It is important to keep in mind that a cold can also be predominantly one type while also being multiple types at the same time and even move through different stages. This makes TCM treatment effective and personalized to the cold itself. TCM practitioners will take into account the unique combination of symptoms and underlying causes, which in turn, helps to determine the appropriate treatment.

In conclusion, our terminology sounds the same as the Western words.

Still, the meaning can be radically different between Western medicine and TCM. If you are considering seeking TCM treatment for your cough or cold, it is essential to keep this difference in mind.

Understanding these differences can help you better communicate with your TCM practitioner, making it more likely that you will receive the correct treatment for your unique situation. By embracing both Western and TCM approaches to coughs and colds, you can more effectively manage your health and wellbeing.

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