Moms’ Tips for Pertussis


We finally found out why it seemed our children’s coughs and colds felt like they would never end–they had pertussis, aka whooping cough, aka the “100 Day” cough.  It turns out Texas is experiencing a pertussis outbreak, and cases are on the rise all over the country.

For weeks, Teddy particularly had been coughing, mostly at night, and he seemed pretty fine during the day — no fever or runny nose, except for a brief period over a month ago.  He’d been diagnosed with “bronchiolitis,” which he also had after a cold last year, and we were told he would just cough for awhile as his bronchial tubes healed.  It actually wasn’t until Teddy’s cough began to go away that he began the characteristic “whoop” (a high-pitched intake of air after several coughs), and we had him tested.  No one else has whooped.

Here are a few things I’ve learned as a result of our little ordeal…

1.  You can get whooping cough even if you have been vaccinated.

2.  Many (most?) people with whooping cough do not whoop.

3.  Every persistent cough should be tested for pertussis.  This is my personal opinion, and perhaps our insurance company would not agree with me.  But you would not believe the number of people over the past month who have told me, when Teddy’s cough came up in conversation, that they or their kids have had a cough that’s lasted all winter.

4. Moms need to know what a “whoop” sounds like.  The first time Teddy clearly whooped was in public, at coffee and donuts after Mass last week.  I thought to myself, that sounds like a whoop–but where in the world did that come from?  Looking back it strikes me that no one with us recognized the sound.  But we didn’t grow up with the disease, so probably no one had ever heard it before.  A couple days later a friend told me that a mutual friend’s children had had pertussis and didn’t realize it until afterwards when they heard a recording of a whoop.  This is what it sounds like.

5.  Antibiotics stop the contagiousness of whooping cough but only reduce the severity if they are started very early on.  The antibiotics course is short, but the cough can linger for “100 days” and the whoop can return if they get sick again in the next 6-9 months.

First up for comfort measures is a steaming cup of tea with honey and lemon.

Also, here are some natural remedies we’re using, in addition to antibiotics, to heal our kids.  I found most of them at Whole Foods:

1. Homeopathic Drosera 30c.  This is a good thing to have on hand to start immediately for a hacking cough, while you’re waiting for a prescription to be filled.  Homeopathic medicines are great because they are safe for pregnant and nursing moms, babies and children.

Product DetailsI think this reduced Teddy’s coughing in the beginning.  Rumex 30c  has been more helpful for me.

2. A cool-mist humidifier has been running in Teddy’s room.

3.  Essential oils–rubbed on the chest or bottoms of the feet, these act like Vicks and can clear sinuses and soothe coughs.  EOs and Vicks are, however, incompatible with homeopathy (#1).  I only started using them when it was clear homeopathy wasn’t going to be enough this time.

I have some oil blends from Heritage Essential Oils.  You could look at the ingredients of their cough remedies and pick up a few of the individual oils at a natural store.  I mix about 20 drops of EOs in 2 tsp of coconut oil and then rub the mixture on the kids’ chests, backs, and the bottoms of their feet.

Essential oil enthusiasts claim that when the oils are diffused in the air they can kill bacteria.  I don’t know about that, but it’s worth considering.  I have a cheap diffuser from Whole Foods.  If I’d known how long we were going to be fighting this, I might have bought a high-quality diffuser like this one.

4. Herbal kids’ cough syrup.  This is soothing and helped Teddy get back to sleep after coughing.

Product DetailsIt contains honey, though, so it’s not okay for infants under 1 year.

5. Another natural cough syrup–this one contains melatonin to help them get to sleep, and so is not for children under 2 years.

6. Zinc lozenges (for everyone but Teddy) – my kids call these “sick candy.”

Product DetailsThey contain zinc, Echinacea, and vitamin C.  Look up how much of each your child can have per day.

7. Baby multi-vitamin

Product Details

8. Big kids’ multi-vitamin 

9. Product DetailsElderberry syrup with zinc and Echinacea.  I gave Teddy a 1/2 tsp daily since he can’t suck on zinc lozenges and his multi-vitamin doesn’t contain zinc.  He calls it “juice medicine” because it tastes good (no Amazon link–it was in my grocery store’s natural section).

10. Any chewable Vitamin C.

**Nothing here is intended as medical advice–just mom-to-mom advice!  Many of these supplements contain the same minerals and vitamins, so be sure to look up daily recommended amounts based on your child’s weight to prevent overdoing it.**

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