Pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough,” is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It is a respiratory illness which is reputed with a dreadful cough. The cough lasts so long that sometimes pertussis is called “the hundred day cough.” Natural remedies like vitamin C, the herb mullein and dietary modifications can go a long way to reduce the intensity of the coughing and bring much comfort until the illness has passed.
Natural Remedies for Whooping Cough
Each of the following remedies can be used to encourage healing of a whooping cough.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A standby for many illnesses, apple cider vinegar helps to alkalize the body. Vinegar tea is the best way to take apple cider vinegar for pertussis. A hot drink soothes coughing. Tea is hydrating. And apple cider vinegar has helpful vitamins and minerals as well.
6 ounces hot water
- 1 Tablespoon raw and organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon raw honey (except for children under one year)
- Mix together in a mug and drink as desired.
Mullein leaf is a “go to” herb to sooth a cough and thin mucous. A strong mullein infusion can be consumed liberally all through the day. To make a quart of mullein infusion (strong tea) add ¼ cup loosely packed dried mullein leaves to a quart jar. Pour hot water over the mullein leaves. Allow to steep at least 15 minutes up to several hours. Strain with a coffee filter. (Mullein must be strained well due to the irritating hairs!) Sweeten with honey (except for children under a year old.) Honey has antibacterial and healing properties.
As many as 80 years ago vitamin C was observed to be useful in reducing the paroxysm of whooping cough!3
Currently Dr. Suzanne Humphries is a leader in promoting the vitamin C protocol for whooping cough. Anyone dealing with whooping cough would do very well to study her protocol.
Dr. Humphries protocol4 uses high doses of vitamin C in the sodium ascorbate form to help neutralize the toxins released by the pertussis bacteria. She also observes that it helps to keep the mucous thin and easier to cough up.
To follow the protocol, the following amounts of vitamin C are suggested:
Weight in Pounds Amount of Vitamin C Per Day
20 pounds 1,700 – 3,400 mg
30 pounds 2,500 – 5,000 mg
60 pounds 5,00 10,000 mg
75 pounds 6,500 13,000 mg
100 pounds 8,500 17,000 mg
125 pounds 10,000 – 20,000 mg
Ideally the dose is divided up and given as many as 10-12 times a day
If daily sunshine is possible it is a good way to get some vitamin D. A vitamin D supplement is also helpful to ensure that this needed vitamin is in the body. Pertussis is less common and less severe in the warmer, sunnier months, quite possibly due to better reserves of vitamin D in the body during these seasons.
Zinc is needed for the immune system to work optimally.
Dry air makes a cough more uncomfortable. A humidifier or vaporizer can be used to keep the air comfortable.
A warm bath with baking soda can be a comforting and healing distraction for a child with whooping cough. Simply add 1 cup baking soda to a warm bath of water. For an extra steamy and humid bath, fill the tub with hot water from the shower (it will cool some as it has lengthy contact with air on its way to the tub.)
Essential Elements for Healing Pertussis
1. Immune System Support
Herbs and vitamin supplements to help the immune system will help the body to fight the disease.
Because the thick mucous makes it so difficult to clear the lungs, keeping the mucous as thin as possible will make the cough more productive and less stressful. Most dairy products make mucous production worse and should be avoided, especially ice cream.
3. Mucous Thinning Remedies
Hydration will help to keep mucous thin. Additionally, herbs can be used to keep mucous thin and easy to eliminate.
4. Nourishing Foods
Quality foods help the body to fight infection and repair damage. Fruits, vegetables, broths, and quality grains and proteins are ideal.
The body heals when it is at rest. Rest is important at all stages of the disease.
Three Stages of Pertussis
Initially, pertussis symptoms mimic that of the common cold. These symptoms usually begin 5-10 days after exposure to the bacteria, though it can take 3 weeks for the symptoms to develop. This stage typically lasts from 1-3 weeks.1
The paroxysmal stage lasts from 1-10 weeks. This is the most severe stage of pertussis with multiple coughing fits every 24 hours. As the body tried to eliminate the mucous from the lungs through vigorous coughing, the coughing fit often ends with a “whoop” sound as air returns to the lungs. Vomiting with the coughing is not uncommon.
During the third stage the coughing becomes less severe as the body recovers from the illness. This stage lasts from 1-3 weeks.
Transmission of Pertussis
Whooping cough is typically transmitted through bodily fluids that enter the air or onto surfaces from coughing.
How Long is Whooping Cough Contagious?
A person is contagious with pertussis before he exhibits the symptoms of pertussis and contagion can last up to 3 weeks after the paroxysmal stage begins.
What About Antibiotics for Pertussis?
Antibiotics are sometimes used to treat pertussis; unfortunately, it is usually not clear that it is pertussis until a point at which antibiotics are not helpful.
Why is Whooping Cough So Serious?
The pertussis bacteria releases a toxin that damages the tiny hairs in the airway. Those tiny hairs help move mucous out of the lungs. Without them it is much harder to expel mucous. This makes the coughing much more dramatic. The mucous that pools in the lungs is also more likely to become infected. Pneumonia is a secondary complication of whooping cough.
While a pertussis vaccine is usually given to babies, immunity can wear off over time and the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee of immunity. Unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals are both at risk for pertussis if the disease is circulating a community, though those who have had a vaccine may have a less severe case.2
Coping with a serious infection like whooping cough requires diligence and patience. Continue reading below for recommendations from Earth Clinic readers who have tried various home remedies and supplements to heal a whooping cough.
Do you have a remedy for whooping cough? Please send us some feedback!