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Achoo…! When to get poked and when to stay home in bed…

Cold and flu season is upon us and many of us spend the fall-winter-spring season in this revolving door of illness, slow recovery and back into illness, over and over for months. Those with certain work environments (ie. outdoors, small offices, schools, health care) or certain elements at home (ie. kids, pets, mould, dust). Some unfortunate souls spend the majority of the colder months with perpetual sniffles, sore throats and general malaise as they drag through one illness to the next.

In Chinese Medicine, viral infections are considered to be transmitted into the body by external pathogens in our environment such as wind, cold and damp. These external pathogens tend to invade the body through vulnerable areas, commonly the back of the head and neck. Once in the body, these pathogens wreak havoc by blocking energy flow and clogging up organs like the lung, which is when you start feeling those familiar symptoms of scratchy throat, runny nose, achy muscles and fatigue. The lung plays an important role of keeping a defensive layer of energy circulating just below the skin, but this function is disrupted when we are ill. If you don’t eliminate these pathogens and clear your lungs, this leaves you open for future invasion. As well, over counter medications simply mask symptoms, are dehydrating and may tempt you to overexert yourself because you are feeling temporarily (and falsely) better.

So, I’m feeling the early onset of a cold, should I get acupuncture?
When would it be ideal to nip that cold in the bud? An acupuncture tune-up at this point would be ideal for stopping further progression of the illness and stimulating your immune system. As well, you could also use the nap! This will assist in fighting off the virus or dealing with a cold for a much shorter duration.

  • Day 1-2 of a cold OR if you’ve had a week or two of nagging baseline symptoms
  • Running nose/nasal congestion with CLEAR mucus
  • Minor scratchy or tickly throat
  • Achy muscles/joints
  • Generalized pressure headache
  • Fatigue, possibly poor appetite

Sometimes, your cold may have set in very quickly or that it is too far along. You are better off staying home resting and not risk infecting everyone in the clinic room.
When to stay home in bed or to seek medical attention if you infection gets nasty?

  • Fever & chills or high fever (greater than 38C)
  • Sinus pain, chest congestion, productive cough with white, yellow (viral) or green (bacterial) mucus
  • Severely sore throat, possibly swollen glands, white coating in the mouth/throat
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down, chest pain
  • Body rashes, swollen joints
  • Severe headache & neck pain (without history of injury)

So how does one get off the sick-briefly well-sick again merry-go-round? Here is a list of simple self-care and home remedies passed on from the age-old wisdom of
Chinese Medicine (with a dash of common sense):

  • Stay warm!
    • Keep your head & neck covered
    • Don’t go out with wet hair
    • Slippers are a must
    • Don’t neglect your legs, keep them covered too
  • Eat well, get sleep!
    • Cold weather calls for warm, nourishing, cooked foods
    • Pungent flavours, like garlic, ginger, onions help to circulate lung energy &
      are anti-microbial
    • Sleep is regenerative, don’t skimp
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
    • Your lungs require fluids to circulate defensive/immune energy
    • Adequate hydration helps to flush out toxic by-products of viral infection
    • Clear fluids only, dairy products are mucus forming
    • Warm to room temperature drinks, don’t shock your system
  • Follow seasonal rhythms!
    • Its winter, if you are feeling lazy or tired lately you are in good company. Most animals are sleeping more this time of year. You aren’t lazy…just attuned to nature.
  • Get tough on bugs!
    • Coughs & sneezes go in your sleeve, not in your hand or into the room
    • Be mindful (but not neurotic) about keeping your hands clean
    • Good old fashioned salt water gargles & sinus rinses (ie. neti pot), also great to keep the bugs out of your ear, nose, throat
    • Medicine cabinet essentials – oil of oregano, grapefruit seed extract or propolis are good anti-microbials to have on hand.
  • Green onion-garlic-ginger-chillies – add this to a stir-fry for dinner, that will scare the cold right out of you…
  • Ginger baths – a few slices in a hot bath is ideal for cold, achy muscles – you can even rub a slice of ginger on the back of your neck and shoulders
  • Learn how to use moxabustion – take our Moxa 101 workshop or pick-up a moxa kit at the office!
  • Take a Cold/Flu Tincture by Jenny McCartney – our resident Western Herbalist has formulated two tinctures for viruses with “heat” or “cold” type symptoms. Pick one up at the office today!

It’s a jungle out there! Stay warm, wise and well this cold/flu season. And if you are ever caught by the cold virus, you are now readily armed to defend yourself. And if you are ever in doubt, come in for some pokes (we’re here for you), your body will thank you!

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