I have a terrible, horrible cough. It’s terrible because it hurts oh so much. My chest goes into spasms and I swear my upper ribs seem to be more prominent now, probably due to the incredible workout it’s getting- instead of a six-pack; I have a defined upper chest that includes the 3cm of visible space right under my clavicle. But I digress. My throat feels like it’s been stripped of its protective mucous layer and is probably neon red in rawness. It’s horrible because this cough only rears its ugly head on a packed commuter train OR at night when I’m trying to sleep. Or 1am when I AM asleep. In short this cough is ultra inconvenient and a desperate attention seeker.
So how did this happen? I am after all always banging on about preventative medicine. Well dear readers, sometimes even the best intentions and measures are not enough, and despite not having been ill all winter (or all autumn for that matter) I have finally succumbed. But how did I succumb?
Let us now don our sleuthing hat and retrace the steps.
For the past 2 weeks I have been a relative social butterfly. A case of waiting months to be taken out, and then a flood of friends with a free opening in their diaries (I have very busy friends) or friends coming from out-of-town meant I have wined and dined in rapid succession. This, you may remember from my de-stress post, is exactly how not to do it.
Add to that my lovely social partners and I were not catching up in a library whispering about the latest happenings. We were in a vibrant environment which involved a bit of loud talking, then possible louder talking and then a bit more shouting. Invariably my throat got quite sore.
During these past 2 weeks of active socializing, the weather in London was glorious. Flowers were in bloom, the sky was clear and blue, and the sun was gifting us both light and warmth!
So I banished my light coat to the back of the closet and wore fewer layers. It was a lovely feeling to feel the sun beating down on my face. Until night came and the sun went to bed and took the warmth away with it. And then I shivered. Now, part of my mantra is “know your own body”. There are people out there who can wear only t-shirts in winter and not seem to think it unusual. I am not one of those people. I have a very sensitive state of homeostasis. The difference between being in the hot summer Greek sun and then being in the shade, 10cm away from that hot summer Greek sun is enough to cool me down, and possibly chill me. So the lovely mild weather with its sudden onset and cooler nights resulted in constant temperature changes and I started to feel under the weather (no pun intended).
Then 3 days ago I drank water whilst listening to an incredibly funny podcast (Adam and Joe from 6music since you asked) and that promptly went down the wrong hole. Oh how I choked. So, my already sore throat got even more aggravated. Imagine a cheese grater up against the insides of your throat.
And then the little, tickly bud unfurled its prickly thorns .
So that was the steps leading up to the cough. Now that I have it, it only gives me real grief after 10pm, especially during the night. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this is considered a yin cough. Yin because it happens at night but also because the symptoms are due to a yin deficiency. It is particularly tiring not because of the spasmodic coughing fits, but also because I cannot sleep.
So what to do?
Nourish the lung qi, get rid of the phlegm, tonify the yin.
I have been having herbal tea with manuka honey to soothe my throat. I find Pei Pa Kao is quite good for a sore throat (also effective for a sore throat due to much screaming from watching a game or gig) but not as good when an actual cough sets in. So I had to turn to a Pei Pa Lo, a TCM cough syrup which is sickly sweet but does work. In addition I have been having acupuncture to help with the cough, clear the empty heat caused by the yin deficiency and tonify the yin.
So that’s treating the root of the problem but for those immediate panic moments, I always have some strepsil lozenges with me. Nothing stops the tear-gushing coughing fit on a packed train like a honey and lemon strepsil. See, the best medicine is a combination of all that’s available to you.
Moral of this story? For coughs and sore throats, laughter is definitely not the best medicine. And remember, always cover your mouth when you cough!!
Photo credit: Brian Gurrola on flickr
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