It’s Ekka time. Everyone in Brisbane knows that when the Brisbane Exhibition is on that the flu goes around. Regardless of whether I go to the Ekka or not (and I did go this year – and I took hand sanitiser), I come down with the lurgy on exactly the same day of the year, the Monday before the Brisbane Exhibition Show Day. Yes, even I get sick sometimes! Picking up a respiratory infection 1-2 times per year is quite healthy and normal. In saying that, being sick is no fun and we like to prevent these things dragging on any longer than they have to.
So, as an acupuncturist, what do I do when I get sick?
Firstly, I should explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we classify the common cold or flu generally into one of two types: hot or cold.
How do you know which one you have?
- Hot signs and symptoms: fevers or feeling hot more predominant, excessive sweating, yellow & thick mucus, razor blade sore throat and a red face.
- Cold signs: chills or feeling the cold more predominant, none/slight sweats, clear & runny mucus, sneezing and pale face.
Treatments for the two types have some similarities but also many differences. It’s important to nut out whether you have hot or cold symptoms, and exactly what those symptoms are, before proceeding to treatment. Your acupuncturist can help you to do this.
I was knocked down with the hot type – a hot-cold. This means that my treatment is based on clearing the heat as well as releasing the exterior (a TCM term which is badly translated as opening the pores to release the pathogen that has made you unwell). If you have the cold type, we can employ more warming methods and herbs in your treatment. Here’s a nice soup if you have a cold-cold.
So, what did I do:
- Acupuncture. Yes, that was my first stop. I had an acupuncture treatment to clear out my sinuses, dull my headache and release some heat that was contributing to that sore throat.
- Herbs. Being able to make up individualised herbal formulas means that I can match the herbs to the symptoms. I used herbs that ‘release the exterior’, dry up phlegm and cool the heat signs. The herbs usually taste quite awful however the upside to having a blocked nose is that it drastically reduces your sense of taste – awful tasting herbs go down easily. Win!
- Fluids. Keeping up your 2 litres of fluid per day is essential and if you are sweating well you’ll need even more. It’s okay to include some herbal tea into your total fluid intake. I combined some HealthWise Clinic Cold & Flu Tea in a pot with a squeeze of fresh lemon (picked from my parents’ lemon tree) and a spoon of honey mixed through it. The herbs were pungent and the lemon and honey were cooling and soothing for the sore throat.
- Inhalation. Clearing your head out when it’s blocked up with mucus is best done with a steam inhalation. Just like your grandmother recommended: tea towel over your head, breathing over a pot of gently steaming water. I usually would add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of nose clearing oils to the water.
- Gargle. One of the simplest gargles that is also very effective is the salt water gargle. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water. Then gargle to your heart’s (or rather throat’s) content. Don’t swallow. Yuck. Salt is cooling for that hot, sore throat.
- Rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Don’t go out if there is anyway to avoid it. No one wants your germs and rest will help you get better faster. I love this post on the importance of rest when you are ill – no one says it better than Kathleen, the naturopath! And here is how she manages a cold as a naturopath.
How do you prevent getting sick? Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago on getting your defenses (immune system) prepared for cold and flu season.
So if you aren’t sick, look after yourself. And if you are sick also look after yourself. Get better soon and seek help if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting.
And just in case you have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, I’m pleased to report that I will be back on deck after a good rest.
To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.