What to do after you catch a head cold or flu

What to do after you catch a head cold or flu

The common cold and flu (influenza) is a very common disease seen in our clinic. Almost every single person will experience a flu or cold at some stage in their life. Colds and flus can occur during any season and in any country around the world.

Some people may only experience this a few times a year whilst others may have them more frequently. Many people believe that it’s only a small problem, but in some cases if the person does not receive proper treatment, it may develop into a more serious disease such as pneumonia, or bronchitis, urinary bladder infection, kidney infection etc.

In this article, I’m going to share my knowledge with you about how to recognise the symptoms at the beginning of a head-cold or flu, and how to relieve them quickly.

1. Common symptoms of a cold and flu

i) Stage one: Mild cold/flu

Sneezing, runny nose, coughing, sore/itchy throat, headaches, body aches, lethargy, mild fever, sweating profusely or not at all.

Generally people have these symptoms for only 2 or 3 days then the body recovers. If they do not recover, it progresses to the second stage.

ii) Stage two: Severe cold/flu

All of the above symptoms become worse and then combine with the following symptoms as well:

Severe cough, heavy, yellow or green phlegm, tightness or pain in the chest, high fever, shortness of breath, severe tiredness, persistent headaches.

2. The common causes of cold a flu

Chinese medicine considers the causes of head-cold or flus are very different season to season and person to person. Sometimes a whole family can come to see me with head-colds, but each member requires a different treatment or formula. Finding out the exact cause of a head-cold or flu in someone is key to quickly resolving the symptoms.

i) External wind or cold

This occurs predominantly during the winter or cold season. The wind and cold block the external surface of the body which closes the pores in the skin. This will result in the following symptoms: aversion to cold, sneezing, clear runny nose, cough, headache, no perspiration, diarrhoea.

ii) External wind and heat

This usually occurs during the summer or hot windy climates. The body will have the following symptoms: sneezing, sore throat, headache, cough with sticky yellow phlegm, sweating, feeling hot, dry stools.

iii) External dampness and heat

This occurs more in the humid and hot climates. The following symptoms may be present: sneezing, blocked nose, cough with heavy phlegm, heavy headache, sensation of heaviness in the body, abdominal bloating, lethargy, sluggish bowel movement, sticky stools, tightness in the chest.

The common causes that we have mentioned above may also be associated with other causes depending on the location, season and your body constitution.

3. What you should do if you have a cold or flu

i) I suggest that if you cannot fight the cold or flu by yourself, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

ii) Upon realising you have a cold or flu, you should rest your body. By slowing down on your normal routines of working hard and exercising etc. In Chinese culture, there is a very popular quote “If you want to recover from your illness, 30% is from treatment, 70% from resting”.

iii) Drinking more warm or room temperature water.

iv) Eat more plant foods such as vegetables and fruit. Cut down on meat and chili foods. Also eat small amounts.

v) If others in you family, friends or work colleagues have a cold or flu, it is best to allow fresh air to circulate the room.

I remember about 30 years ago when I was studying TCM in university. The lecturer told us how to treat a cold or flu, he said “Don’t think cold and flu are a small issue, it may cause death”. For this reason in my clinic, I ensure my patients with a cold or flu are well looked after.

4. Prevention of Head-Cold or Flu

i) During flu season, open the windows to allow fresh air to ventilate rooms (especially rooms in which people with head-colds / flu have been!).

ii) Enjoy a balanced lifestyle – avoid over-doing things and stressful situations.

iii) Do more exercise outdoors when conditions are good (e.g. when it’s not too rainy or windy).

iv) The earlier you seek treatment, the quicker you will recover.

Sometimes it may be hard to avoid a cold or flu, but I hope that this advice will help you recover quickly.


Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.