Powerful Alternative Treatments for Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Whooping cough or pertussis is a very contagious disease caused by bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. The name whooping cough is derived by from the “whoop” sound in the inhalation of sufferers when they cough violently due to the disease.

In babies and small children, whooping cough can be a deadly condition. In the US, children, are routinely vaccinated to protect them against this disease. However, it seems that pertussis is making a comeback, hitting infants who have not been able to finish the required number of vaccinations and teens who have worn off their immunity.

A set of three vaccines are required for babies to full protect them from pertussis; however, it’s been shown that with just one dose of the vaccine, babies can already gain significant protection. Children who are at high risk from getting the disease can be well prevented by the vaccine. To boost their immunity, children and teens can get vaccinated but this doesn’t guaranty them full protection and still may get a milder form of the disease. Children from 11 years to 18 years of age should get a booster shot that includes vaccination for whooping cough, as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Signs and Symptoms of Pertussis

Pertussis has three stages:

The first stage lasts one to two weeks and its symptoms include:

• Slight fever < 100.4 °F
• Upper respiratory infection
• Loss of appetite
• Sneezing
• Extreme runny nose
• Occasional and mild coughing

The second stage lasts one to six weeks. Signs and symptoms include:

• Cough that has a "whooping" sound, which can occur when a person tries to draw a breath (this does not occur in all people suffering from whooping cough)
• Worsening cough (two to fifty times a day) and longer lasting coughing spells
• Choking or vomiting that occur after coughing spells
• Pneumonia may develop
• Sudden coughing that are intensely severe and result in a bluish discoloration of the face, tongue sticking out; and tearing and bulging eyes.

As the cough slowly goes away during the third stage, the sufferer may endure coughing for a couple of weeks to a number of months.

What Causes Pertussis?

A bacteria known as bordetella pertussis is the main culprit for pertussis. It can be spread via droplets by sneezing or coughing into the air. This condition is highly contagious disease and besides babies and children, adults who have not yet been vaccinated can be infected by a mild form of this disease.

Doctor's Office Treatment of Pertussis

By listening to your cough, your doctor may be able to diagnose whooping cough. However, in its early stages, whooping cough can be difficult to diagnose. While you are contagious, your doctor or healthcare provider may take a mucus or saliva sample from your throat or nose, and advise you not to make contact with other people. If a child below two years old is experiencing severe coughing spells or complications, that child needs to be hospitalized.

Treatment Options

For a baby not yet six months of age, whooping cough can be a deadly disease; in toddlers, it can cause complications. It is important for a baby who has pertussis be immediately treated by a doctor. Pertussis treatment in adults is designed to prevent the disease from spreading and to control it. In certain cases, a ventilator, oxygen, nutrition, IV fluids and quarantine may be needed.

Drug Treatments

Betamethasone and other types of corticosteroids – This may decrease the duration and magnitude of the coughing spells, particularly in infants.

Antibiotics – They help you get better and lower the likelihood of transmitting pertussis to others. Also usually prescribed are erythromycin and Zithromax (Azithromycin)

Over-the-shelf cough suppressants should not be used especially in children under two years old primarily because they don't work.

Albuterol – Significantly lowers the intensity of the coughing spells.

Surgical and Other Procedures

For infants, mist by tent may be helpful

Physicians may utilize suction secretions and electrolytes, IV fluids, and oxygen in adults and infants who are at risk for longer illness.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Antibiotics are important for people suffering from pertussis. It’s not recommended to use supplement and herbs alone, especially for children. When combined with conventional medications, homeopathy, herbs, and supplements may help you recover faster. Often consult with your doctor and a knowledgeable provider when combining your medications with alternative treatments.


The bodily systems can be tonified and strengthened with the use of herbs. But as with any healing modality, one should cooperate with a healthcare provider in order to diagnose the problem prior to beginning treatment. Herbs used can be in the form of alcohol extracts (tinctures), glycerine extracts (glycerites), or teas, powders, or capsules (dried extracts). Teas should be made using 1 tsp of the herb mixed in a cup of warm or hot water, unless otherwise indicated. For flowers or leaves, steep covered five to ten minutes, and for roots, ten to twenty minutes. Drink two – four cups a day. You may use a combination or tea or tinctures or tinctures alone.

To treat whooping cough in children, herbs should not be used by themselves. Before giving any herb to a child, it is important to first seek the approval of the pediatrician.

There are still no studies dealing with herbal therapy for whooping cough. The herbs that are used have been traditionally used to boost the immune system and treat coughs. Since all herbs can interact with other drugs and have side effects, it’s important that you consult with a pediatrician or doctor before trying out even a single herb. They can tell what herbs can be appropriate for your child and in what dose they should be taken.

Immune-stimulating herbs:

Garlic – The problem with garlic is that it can interfere with several drugs and may increase the risk of hemorrhage, more so if you are using blood thinners, such as Plavix (clopidogrel) or Coumadin (warfarin).

Echinacea – Echinacea can also interfere with several medications. Echinacea should not be taken by individuals with plant allergies.

Astragalus – This herb can interfere with lithium and medications.


Despite the fact that the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating pertussis has still not been studied, some sufferers may opt for acupuncture treatment to help strengthen their immune system.


For children frequent meals of fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, and vegetable broths should be given.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation

The doses indicated below are meant for children. The doses should be doubled for adults.

Beta carotene (10,000 – 25,000 IUs a day), zinc (10 -15 mg a day), and vitamin C (200 – 500 mg twice a day)

For children above four years of age, up to three grams of vitamin C a day in divided doses for short periods of time can be given.


Thyme – This herb may increase the likelihood of bleeding, especially if you’re using blood thinners.

Indian tobacco – Taking Indian tobacco can be dangerous, so it should only be used under the close supervision of a doctor.

Jamaican dogwood – This herb should not be combined with sedative medications. Taking Jamaican dogwood is also potentially dangerous, and so should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.

Chamomile – If you are allergic to ragweed, you need to consult with your doctor first before taking chamomile.

Catnip – This herb can be helpful in relieving nausea and vomiting. However, it can also cause heavy menstruation and interact with lithium and sedatives.

Expectorants (for expelling mucus):


Elecampane – This herb should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you have low or high blood pressure, diabetes, or are allergic to ragweed you need to talk to your doctor first before using this herb. Do not combine elecampane with any sedative drugs.

Anise – This herb may interact with drugs that affect hormones, including tamoxifen and birth control pills

Hyssop – Hyssop is contraindicated for use by pregnant women.

Amy-SuiQun Lui, L.Ac.
Asian Health Center
27059 Grand Army of the Republic Hwy
Cleveland, OH 44143
Tel: (440) 833-0983