Following the previous discussions about the causes of upper respiratory tract ailments, we will now discuss prevention of coughs.
“Curing before illness occurs” is an important concept in TCM disease prevention. Prevention is better than cure and when one does fall ill, pathological changes must be prevented. TCM’s “curing before illness occurs” is a concept that is internationally recognised as being the most progressive and ahead of its time. It leads mankind towards “a world without sickness”.
Coughing is mainly caused by the Six Excessive Atmospheric Influences (wind, cold, heat, moisture, dry heat and fire). For children and the elderly weak, care must be taken to prevent catching colds or getting too stuffy. They should keep warm and maintain their living environments clean, hygienic and well-ventilated. During the peak period for upper respiratory tract ailments, they should avoid crowded places. In public areas, they can wear surgical masks to reduce the chances of getting sick. Given the unpredictable weather that vacillates between hot and cold, dry and humid within short periods of time, these external factors easily lead to upper respiratory tract ailments and coughing. Children and the elderly weak should take care.
It is advocated in the TCM classics that food and drink intakes should be moderate, lifestyles should be regulated, and one’s mind should be disciplined. In doing so, sickness will not befall one. This is the theoretical basis for disease prevention and health promotion. Food and drink, lifestyles, work and mental inclination and health are related to disease and illness. In particular, food and drink have a major effect on coughing. People who cough a lot and produces a lot of phlegm should avoid fatty, sweet and heavy-flavoured foods in order to prevent harming the spleen, encouraging wetness and produce phlegm. People who are coughing because of wind-heat, wind-dry-heat and weak yin of the lungs should avoid heavy, spicy, deep-fried foods and alcohol in order to prevent harm to the yin and the body gaining more heat. People who cough at night because of weak yang and hollow-cold should avoid raw and cold foods. One should also take note of one’s working hours. Sleeping and waking up early is recommended. Late nights are discouraged. In everyday life, one should strengthen one’s body by engaging in an appropriate amount of exercise and adjust one’s emotions. Bad habits such as smoking should be stopped. Finally, soups suitable to one’s constitution are recommended when there is a lull in coughing. With a stronger body, one catches coughs less easily and when one does, one stops coughing more quickly.