Cold, Flu, or COVID-19?

The Epoch Times
by Amber Yang and Alice Zhu



In winter, the strong, cold air can cause people to suffer from cold symptoms. Dr. Shu Rong, a senior traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner living in the UK, explains how to distinguish between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, how “colds” are understood in Chinese medicine and ways to treat symptoms to prevent them from getting worse.

How to Distinguish Between COVID-19 and the Flu?

Shu believes that the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar. The difference is that COVID-19 can make people lose their sense of taste, and its incubation period is 2-14 days, which is longer than the 1-4 days for the flu.

In addition, the symptoms of COVID-19 are more wide-ranging, and the severity and mortality rates are higher than those of the flu.

Shu says that COVID-19 makes people lose their sense of taste, and its incubation period is 2-14 days, which is longer than the 1-4 days for the flu. (Health 1+1)

Shu believes that the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are very similar. (Health 1+1)

Different Classification of Colds in TCM

Western medicine understands the common cold to be caused by a wide range of viruses, including rhinoviruses, whereas the flu is caused by one of three types of influenza viruses. Some bacteria can also cause similar symptoms.

In the view of TCM, many diseases are believed to be caused by forces in our environment. These forces are referred to as the six external pathogenic influences, categorized as wind, cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and summer heat. 

In TCM, the classification of “colds” is not the same as in Western medicine. TCM divides colds into two types according to the symptoms: anemofrigid (wind-cold) cold and anemopyretic (wind-heat) cold.

Viral colds usually have symptoms such as being unable to withstand the cold, sneezing, and joint pain—which are the anemofrigid cold (wind-cold) cold, meaning caused by wind and cold. Bacterial colds are characterized by symptoms such as thick nasal mucus, purulent phlegm, and slow symptom development—which are symptoms of an antipyretic (wind-heat cold—literally meaning caused by wind and heat).

However, it is not absolute. In addition, there are different types of viruses and bacteria, so the responses from the body are different.

Shu emphasized that it is necessary to identify the type of symptoms first, otherwise, taking the wrong medicine could make them worse. Also, people should not take TCM meant to clear the heat from their bodies and detoxify at will, otherwise, their yang energy will be harmed.

Distinguish Types of Common Cold Before Treatment

Shu pointed out that the cause of antipyretic (wind-heat) cold is mostly wind and heat attacking the surface of the body or by wind and cold turning into heat in the body. Symptoms include severe fever, sore throat, yellow sputum, yellow viscous nose mucus, the edge of the tongue being red, the coating of the tongue being yellow, increased thirst, and a preference for cold drinks.

Such cold symptoms can be relieved by TCM Banlangen, Shuanghuanglian, Yinqiao tablets, or herbal medicines that clear heat and detoxify, he said.

Anemofrigid colds are often caused by getting a body cold.  Symptoms include adverse effects of cold such as fever, chills, cough, thin white phlegm, nasal congestion, runny nose, a thin and white coating of tongue, headache, body aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (more common in children than adults).

Coriander, ginger, and scallion can be used to prepare soup to force the coldness out of the body.

Dr. Shu told Health 1+1 that anemofrigid colds and anemopyretic colds need to be distinguished before treatment.

Healing Soup Recipes

Scallion Soup Recipe

Ingredients: Cut  5 scallions (with roots) into thin slices. Use only the white parts of the scallions.


  • Boil 300 ml (0.65 pints) of water
  • Add the scallions
  • Cook for about two minutes
  • Turn off the heat
  • Remove the scallions and drink the liquid while hot

Indications: In the early stage of the common cold, when people experience nasal congestion, cold, or muscle soreness.

Directions: After drinking the soup, it is best to sleep and cover yourself with a quilt. You need to sweat a bit and expel the cold energy from the body to speed up your recovery. Drink three times a day until recovery. If you do not sweat, you can eat hot porridge to help your body sweat.

Note: If you have a sore throat, red eyes, and cannot expel phlegm, it means that the fever has started. You should stop drinking the scallion soup but drink more water, boiled water with pear, lily, and white fungus, and eat more green vegetables to nourish yin and clear heat.

Scallion Soup Recipe (Healthy 1+1)

Ginger Soup (tea) Recipe

Ingredients: Ginger, 5 jujubes, brown sugar.


  • Wash 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of ginger, do not peel (the skin of the ginger can expel the wind and chill)
  • Cut the ginger into fine slices
  • Add five jujubes (split) and an appropriate amount of brown sugar
  • Pour 250 ml (0.5 pints) of water, and cook on high heat
  • After the water boils, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes
  • It is then ready to be served. The directions and notes are the same as those of Scallion Soup

Ginger Soup Recipe (Healthy 1+1)

Shu said ginger soup (ginger tea) is good for relieving Anemofrigid (wind-cold) cold symptoms, and it is best to drink it in the morning.


The Epoch Times