Barbara Roberts, Homeopath

Whooping Cough

After the tragic death of a third infant from whooping cough there has been renewed publicity of the disease, so it is time for a post with some information about what you can do if you, or your child or someone close to you gets Whooping cough.

Whooping cough is an infection with the bacteria Bordetella Pertussis. Initially the infection causes cold like symptoms, including a mild fever, sneezing and runny nose, and there can be a mild but irritating cough. After a week or two these symptoms resolve and a more violent, paroxysmal cough develops, which can last for months – Whooping cough is sometimes called the 100 day cough. (1)

Despite vaccination, New Zealand has an epidemic of Whooping cough every 4-7 years (2), and those at most risk are babies under age 1 and those with respiratory problems. Once you have contracted Whooping cough though, natural immunity will give you protection from further infections – estimated to be 30-50 years (3).

Conventional treatment is antibiotics, usually Erythromycin, however this is only useful in the initial stage, so unless you know you have been exposed to Whooping cough, by the time you realise the mild cold symptoms you have were the first signs, it will be too late. Also, while the antibiotics stop you passing it on, they do not change the normal course of the disease (4), so the information below about dealing with symptoms will be useful.

If you have a baby under age 1, the best thing you can do is breastfeed them (5) but homeopathy is safe for them, and discuss other treatment options with your healthcare professional.

At first signs of suspected Whooping Cough, start taking high dose vitamin C. This helps clean up the Pertussin toxin that causes the coughing and damages the cilia in the lungs, and will subsequently reduce coughing (6). For further information on how to do this please read Suzanne Humphries protocol here:

There are various herbal cough remedies on the market that may be useful to take – particularly those with herbs that help clear mucus like Mullein or Hyssop, or antispasmodic herbs like Thyme. This is not my area of expertise, but we have good combinations on the New Zealand market, including (but not limited to) Artemis, KiwiHerb and Harkers Herbals.

For pharmaceutical cough mixtures, the only one I recommend, when there is phlegm, is one containing Bromhexine, which helps thin the mucus. The evidence for the efficacy of all other cough mixtures is dubious.

Let’s talk Homeopathy, which is my main modality, focusing on the stage where the cough has set in.

Antimonium Tartaricum will have a rattling of mucus in the chest, that can be heard with every breath, but when they cough they just can’t bring it up. Coughing exhausts them, and if they do manage to bring up the phlegm it is white or yellow and ropey.

Bryonia has a dry, painful, spasmodic cough. It hurts to cough and they will hold their chest to support it. All they want to do is lie down and not move. Eating or drinking may cause them to cough and vomit, but they will go back to eating afterwards.

Coccus Cacti will wake up with paroxysms of a hard, racking cough. The cough can cause them to vomit, and the mucus will be clear and ropey, even hanging in long strings. They want cold drinks, and may hold their breath to prevent the cough.

Drosera has a cough with a particular barking sound, the paroxysms are violent and follow each other closely – even to the point they can’t catch their breath (and this is when you may get the classic “whoop” that gives whooping cough it’s name). The cough can cause reaching or vomiting from tickling in the throat, and they can have a pain below the ribs which they want pressure on while coughing.

There are many other remedies that can be useful in whooping cough, and if none of these sound right, or you try them and they don’t help, then please reach out to a Homeopath for a consultation.


(1) The Immunisation Advisory Centre 2022. Pertussis (Whooping Cough).

(2) Ministry of Health 2020. 15. Pertussis (whooping Cough). The Immunisation Handbook

(3) Wearing, Helen & Rohani, Pejman. (2009). Estimating the Duration of Pertussis Immunity Using Epidemiological Signatures. PLoS pathogens. 5. e1000647. 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000647.

(4) Altunaiji S, Kukuruzovic R, Curtis N, Massie J. Antibiotics for whooping cough (pertussis). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD004404. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004404.pub3. PMID: 17636756.

(5) Nascimento RMD, Baptista PN, Lopes KAM, Pimentel AM, Cruz FDSP, Ximenes RAA (2021). Protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding and effectiveness of maternal vaccination in reducing pertussis-like illness. J. Pediatr. (Rio J.) 97 (05) • Sep-Oct 2021

(6) Humphries, Suzanne, Sodium Ascorbate Treatment of Whooping Cough.

Image by stockking on freepik.

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