Whooping cough is an acute disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. It is passed on by droplets, from coughing or sneezing and is very contagious with a greater incidence in winter.
Symptoms of whooping cough
The bacteria invade the body and take one to three weeks to start showing symptoms. The whole respiratory tract may be affected. The entire symptom stage takes about six weeks, but may extend up to three months. Initially mucous is produced, along with fatigue, sneezing, coughing, teary eyes and poor appetite. Usually there is only mild or no fever.
These symptoms last for up to two weeks, after which the cough may worsen to the stage where there are bouts of short, suffocating, spasmodic coughs, finishing with a whoop as the child gasps for air. The face may turn red or purple. After such bouts of coughing the child may bring up thick mucous, which can then be followed by an attack of vomiting. The period of severe coughing lasts for two to three weeks. The recovery period takes one to six weeks where the cough decreases and becomes looser, with more phlegm. It is important that recovery is complete or the child may suffer with an increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infection for many years.
Diagnosis of whooping cough
Diagnosis can be difficult and is primarily based on history of contact from the symptoms. Cultures of the infected mucous are not totally accurate but are more reliable in the earlier pre-spasmodic stages of the disease. Neither the disease nor immunization provides long-term immunity. The vaccination is claimed to be 70-80% effective in preventing disease, however its effectiveness and toxicity have been questioned (Harrisons Principles of Internal Medicine).
The infective period of whooping cough lasts for six weeks after the onset of the disease. If antibiotic herbs are given in the early stages of the condition they can eliminate the disease, at the spasmodic stage they help reduce the contagiousness.
Natural treatment recommendations
In the initial stages of the disease strong antibiotic herbs are necessary, along with immune tonics to aid the body in throwing off the disease. Herbs such as Andrographis, Echinacea, Cats Claw, Withania and Sundew are useful examples. The cough continues long after the bacteria are dead. This is due to the hook-shaped bacterial which lodges in the respiratory tract and continues irritating. At this stage, more demulcent and anti-spasmodic herbs are useful. These may include Marshmallow, Ribwort, Thyme and Sage. Another aid in eliminating these hooked-on bacteria can be lemon, ginger and honey drinks.
A well-nourished, healthy child is less likely to contract whooping cough and if they do the symptoms and duration will be minimal. Once a cough has taken hold, it is a matter of supporting the child’s immunity, respiratory system and also their nervous system due to the stressful nature of the condition. Parents may also benefit from nervous system support!
The specific herbal treatment for any cough is geared towards reducing respiratory tract infection, which is causing the coughing. Other actions liquefy and aid expecturation of tenacious mucous, soothe the spasmodic nature of the cough by relaxing the air-ways and support the integrity of the respiratory tract mucous membrane. In addition to oral herbal medicines, steam inhalations, chest rubs and poultices are all useful in reducing the severity of symptoms.
Homeopathic treatment for whooping cough
Homeopathic Pertussin is used to lessen the child’s susceptibility to whooping cough. Other remedies included in symptom management are Drosera, Aconite, Arnica, Nux Vomica and Belladonna. In prescribing homeopathics for whooping cough (and herbs) it is best to consult with your healthcare professional. Bush and/or Bach flower essences are also useful in supporting the emotional as well as the physical condition of the affected child.
A well-managed case of whooping cough will certainly reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Of equal value is the return to full health without suffering lingering respiratory weakness often associated with cases of whooping cough. This is definitely one of the childhood diseases that requires attention and concentrated natural medicine throughout the disease to prevent any possible resulting weaknesses.
Come and see us at Mullumbimby Herbals or if you do not live locally please contact us for advice.