Case Studies:

Post Viral Cough

The client

Susan, a healthy and relatively fit 53 year old woman, presented with a cough that had annoyed her for 15 weeks.
Initially she had contracted a common cold, which included the symptoms of fever, headache, sore throat and sinus congestion. The cough developed a few days later.

Biomedical diagnosis & treatment

Susan’s GP concluded it was likely her symptoms were viral and advised Susan to rest, keep hydrated and use paracetamol for pain relief.  Her symptoms continued for approximately one week then appeared to abate over a few days. Thereafter, Susan felt relatively well except for the continuous cough, including coughing fits throughout the day. The cough sounded quite wet, however the sputum or phlegm was difficult to expectorate or bring up. Susan found the cough quite fatiguing as it also disturbed her sleep. Her GP suggested the cough was a post-viral symptom, often called the 90 day cough, differing from whooping cough in that it is a viral infection and not bacterial. In addition to the cough, Susan was experiencing hay fever symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes which she had not suffered from for years. The advice given was to not over do things and eventually the cough will subside. However, Susan found the cough very debilitating and was hoping for a faster recovery.

A Chinese medicine diagnosis

A diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine involves:

  • Listening to the complaint & other associated symptoms
  • Looking at the colour, size, shape & coating of a person’s tongue
  • Feeling the pulse to assess organ health & state of Qi
  • Palpation of the body to assess skin temperature & soft tissue consistency (swelling, pain or cysts etc.)
  • Asking about general health related to digestion, sleep and energy levels

Susan was diagnosed with a lung Qi deficiency with retained phlegm causing a cough. It is likely the initial virus depleted her constitutional health, not allowing the body to completely heal and therefore resolve the cough. It is also likely the depletion of her lung energy made her more susceptible to hay fever symptoms, as the lungs in Chinese medicine can correlate with the immune system.

The Chinese medicine treatment principle is to strengthen the lung Qi and clear the phlegm to resolve the cough.


On Susan’s initial visit she had an acupuncture treatment. Nine acupuncture points were used on her hands, arms, chest and legs. These points were chosen to stimulate her lung Qi and to resolve the phlegm. Additionally, two acupuncture points located on the outside of Susan’s nostrils were used to help ease her hay fever symptoms.

Granule herbsSusan was also given a granulated Chinese herbal prescription to take home as part of her treatment.  The herbal formula consisted of twelve herbs and similar to the acupuncture, their focus was to strengthen the lung Qi and clear the mucus and congestion to stop the cough.

After a week Susan returned to the clinic and reported her cough had significantly reduced. Her coughing fits had reduced in both frequency and intensity. Her acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment was repeated with a greater emphasis on her immune system and less on symptomatic treatment. A follow-up telephone conversation with Susan revealed her cough, sleep quality and energy were much improved.

Nick ConquestNick Conquest
Chinese Medicine Practitioner