The Cough That Just Won't Go Away!

A post-viral cough can be so incredibly frustrating – for you, if you’ve got one – for your child, if they’ve got one – and the rest of the household who are being woken up by it in the night. No one is getting adequate sleep when that post-viral cough just goes on and on and on… I’m tired just thinking about it.


The Chinese Medicine Approach to a Post-Viral Cough

From a Chinese medicine perspective, if you or your child has had a virus that has been and gone, yet there is a post-viral cough left over, it means you may need help to get rid of it completely. It is necessary to look at your overall system to get a sense of what isn’t working so well right now.

To understand why a post-viral cough is lingering, I ask questions like:

  • When is the cough mostly a problem?

  • Do they have post-nasal drip?

  • What’s their digestion like at the moment?

  • How often and what kind of bowel movements are they doing?

  • What kinds of foods are they currently eating?

  • Do they have any reflux?


The Morning Post-Viral Cough

A cough that mostly happens upon waking can often be attributed to dysfunction in the Spleen and Stomach in Chinese medicine. This is because the digestion isn’t working so well and dampness is being formed in the gut, which is having an impact on the Lungs and nose.

The best way to treat an AM post-viral cough is with a saline solution for the nose to clear it of excess mucus and irritants. You can do this with a neti pot if you’re an adult, and with some help children 9 and above should be able to use one or you can get saline sprays from the chemist and give that a try if you have younger children.

I would also suggest looking at your diet and omitting damp foods. Some examples include: alcohol, dairy, excessive fruit, sugar and overly oily foods.

The Evening Post-Viral Cough

A cough that happens mostly in the evening and is dry means the body’s Yin levels may have been affected. You or your child might be quite dried out and in need of supplements.

The dryness itself can manifest in the body as itchiness and this can irritate the throat, causing a relentless cough. This dryness could be a recent thing or could be a build-up over time, for example from past medication use, and now it has culminated to produce this irritating effect.

In Chinese medicine, depending on the overall presentation, the persistent cough could be linked to Lung Yin deficiency or Kidney Yin deficiency. When the body fluids have been dried up in the Lung area for a while, it can end up turning to heat and so you or your child might feel quite hot in the night also. This is the time when a vaporiser could be useful in the bedroom to increase the humidity in the air.


Healing a Virus with Chinese Medicine

If you’re having trouble completely getting rid of a virus, I also recommend that you:

  • Eat fermented foods rich in probiotics (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha) and take a supplement whilst you’re on the mend such as Inner Health Plus.

  • Drink lots of soup to ensure you’re well hydrated and that you can easily digest your food. Chicken soup with some ginger and garlic is fantastic.

  • Consider taking Chinese herbal medicine that’s been prescribed by a practitioner. They will look at your overall health to determine which is the best course of action for you. You may need moistening herbs for your Lungs, you may need drying herbs to address dampness, you may need digestion-strengthening herbs or immune-boosting herbs or a combination of those.

  • Avoid these foods whilst you’re unwell: sugar, alcohol, dairy products and excessive amounts of fruit. Favour veggies, lots of easy-to-digest soups and stews.

  • Go to bed early because you’re likely to be woken a lot with your coughing so you’ll need more sleep in the interim.

  • Acupuncture to boost your immune system is always a good preventative medicine.


For all the ins and outs of a nagging post-viral cough from a medical perspective, check out this article on Harvard Health – it’s super useful.

If you’re ever in doubt about your health or that of your kids, seek the advice of your GP. Once the acute nasties are addressed and ruled out, if you’d like to consider a natural option for ongoing prevention and health maintenance, you can consider Chinese Medicine.