Whooping Cough – what it is, and what YOU can do about it! by Narelle Chenery

President - Vaccine Information Service

This is the first in a series designed to explode some myths about these "DEADLY" diseases we hear so much hype about in the media, and to help put some power back in the hands of those who do the best healing - the parents.

Whooping cough begins with what appears to be a normal cold, which then develop into a cough. It involves infection by bacteria which irritate the airways and cause them to become swollen and clogged by thick mucus. The "whoop" comes when the child draws breath over the swollen larynx.

Possible symptoms of whooping cough include:
aches and pains,
coughing which increases, coming in short sharp paroxysms,
vomiting after a bout of coughing,
coughing fits that are worse at night which may cause sleeplessness

In the third week, the child may get worse, and heavy spasms of coughing may develop, often with the characteristic "whoop".

The reassuring aspect of whooping cough is that the onset is gradual. If there is whooping cough going around your neighbourhood and your child develops a cold or a cough, you can start treatment immediately. You have from ten days to two weeks to treat the child, before the coughing becomes more serious, to prevent the whooping stage.

Vitamin C and whooping cough

Ninety children with whooping cough were given vitamin C orally or were injected with 5000 milligrams daily for 7 days, with the dosage being gradually reduced until a daily level of 100 milligrams was reached. A control group was given the whooping cough vaccine.


The duration of the disease in the children receiving vitamin C was 15 to 20 days, while the average duration for the children receiving the vaccine was 34 days. When vitamin C therapy was started during the catarrhal stage, the spasmodic stage was prevented in 75 percent of the cases.

Herbal treatment of whooping cough

At the first signs of a cold or slight cough, make a tea using the following prescription:

part sundew, 1 part coltsfoot, 1 part elecampane, 1 part squills, 1 part thyme.

Sweeten with liquorice, and add honey if necessary. Give the tea as often as you can, up to the equivalent of four to six cups a day.

If treated properly when it first starts, the symptoms should not worsen to the "whooping" stage. If you miss the first stage and the "whoop" sets in, you can still use the same recipe, giving tea every hour or so, and add one or two of the following herbs: wild cherry bark, wild lettuce, red clover.

To encourage your child to take the herbs, experiment to discover which is the best way to get him or her to take them. You can try:

Teas – to be taken as often as possible, sweetened with liquorice, honey or aniseed.

Tinctures – easier because they are more concentrated. Between five and ten drops of the mixture can be given in a drink every two hours. Or every hour if the condition is serious.

Hand and foot baths – using teas or tinctures, diluted in water, two to four times daily.

Essential oils – choose from basil, cypress, marjoram or thyme, use them in vaporisers, in massage oils for the chest, feet or abdomen. A few drops can be put on the pillow at night, or used in a plant spray to spray the room.

Dietary treatment of whooping cough

At the onset of cold or cough symptoms give only fruit or fruit and vegetables, with fruit juice, vegetable juice or herb teas, sweetened with honey for a day or two. Then give only light food, with no milk, no sugar, nor starchy foods, plenty of soups, grated vegetables, fresh fruit, chicken or fish.

General advice for the treatment of whooping cough

It is important that the child rest as much as possible to give the body a chance to recuperate. Too much exertion can bring on coughing and deplete the child’s energy. Your child may need a lot a reassurance, especially during coughing fits, and may feel better if you hold him or her and talk to help stop panic, which will only make the breathlessness and coughing worse.

During coughing, sit the child up and encourage him or her to spit up the phlegm into a bowl.

Rescue Remedy can be used liberally for both parents and child.

If your child vomits after coughing, make sure they have plenty of herb tea to prevent dehydration.

Make sure there is plenty of fresh air in the room, and keep chemical and cigarette smoke well away.

Call your doctor immediately if the baby or child is having breathing difficulties, if there is blueness around the mouth or if there is excessive vomiting which could lead to risk of dehydration.

The information above is taken from various books in the VIS library: "Healing Your Child", Frances and Louise Darragh; "The Herbal for Mother and Child", Anne McIntyre; "Nutrition Almanac", Lavon J. Dunne.