Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pertussis In Our Home

Although we had planned to go apple picking, eat a picnic lunch at the park and finally start Eva’s therapy, we ended up in the throes of dealing with pertussis instead. Not fun.

Eva was the first to come down with a cough. It lasted for about 2 ½ weeks and I didn’t think too much of it. It was dry and annoying and I chalked it up as an allergy. No cold symptoms and none of the other kids got  it. After 2 ½ weeks, she started to have episodes (called paroxysms) of intense coughing during the night that would wake her up. A few times she would spit up mucous. She would have a few episodes of this during the day as well, but otherwise she was just fine- playing and running around as usual. A family we are friends with had the same symptoms with their children and she contacted me and said that there was a chance they had pertussis. It all started to click…

I spent hours researching whooping cough as I wanted to know what I was up against. It is not my purpose to tell you everything about whooping cough. There are many great websites available that can fill you in. One that I like in particular is This sight has links available to allow you to listen to a whooping cough- one with the whoop, and one without. Fifty percent of kids don’t have the characteristic whoop. Eva did not present with the whoop either. But I found it helpful to listen and realized she sounded just like the recording, confirming in my mind that this is what we were indeed dealing with.

We’ve only had our oldest 2 vaccinated and our third had whooping cough when she was 15 months old (12 years ago), although it went undiagnosed for weeks. I finally determined that it was whooping cough, because she would only “whoop” during the night. She appeared totally fine and healthy when I brought her to the doctor’s office. My experience has been that the cough is much worse at night. It picks up in intensity as the sun goes down!

Exactly 21 days after Eva started her cough, Edmond and Ashlyn woke up with the same dry, annoying cough. The immensity of having 7 children as sick as Eva hit me and I broke down. Nights of little sleeping didn’t help, of course. I wanted to have a diagnosis, so that I wasn't quarantining our family for no reason. On Monday I tried to find a doctor to see her, but the office I occasionally go to was 2 weeks out. In God’s providence I ended up going to a really nice doctor at a local office- one who believes playing in dirt and eating whole foods is much more important to one’s immunity than vaccinations. What a gift from the Lord! He was not at all judgmental. He agreed that Eva seemed to be presenting with pertussis and placed her on an antibiotic. He also saw Edmond the next morning and had both of them swabbed at the health department. That was an awful experience. A big metal scalpel thing up the nose and inserted way, way up- cringe! Three days for the initial results and 2 to 3 weeks for the cultures to return… and a round of antibiotics for the whole family. The initial PCR test came back positive for both kids. I wasn't surprised...

We chose to only put the youngest 7 on antibiotics (our 10 year old on down to the baby). I’m certainly not big on taking antibiotics as I prefer to treat things naturally. We decided for it for 2 reasons. One, because it shortens the time we will be contagious. In a family our size, we could be contagious for weeks. Second, because those without symptoms could possibly be spared from getting it. Antibiotics will kill the pertussis bacteria but will not, however, cure it or alleviate the symptoms. Long story short, they can still cough for weeks, thus the term “100 day cough.”

I was determined to do everything possible to build up my children’s immunity to fight this bacteria as well as to rebuild their bodies, particularly their lungs. We cut out all dairy (besides a little butter) which is known to increase mucous production and reduced our grain intake, for the same reason. We already don't eat sugar, and I tried to encourage fluid intake by filling up a large do-it-yourself thermos for the kids to help themselves to lemon water. We also added many natural remedies to our daily routine. This is what we are doing and will continue to do for the next few weeks:

1.       Vitamin C: I give each of the kids 2 packets of Emergen-C a day. You can go up to 4,000 mg, but my children couldn’t handle that much (loose stools). Some of my kids are also eating dried goji-berries, a powerhouse of nutrients and high in vitamin C.
2.       Healing Carrot Bisque: one of the recommendations is to increase your intake of beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A which helps heal the mucous membranes of the lungs. Since I don't believe taking vitamin pills is as beneficial as consuming whole foods, I came up with this healing soup rich in beta-carotene and immune boosting mushrooms. Don’t worry, your kids won’t taste them, promise! We are eating this soup every day for lunch. See recipe below…
3.       Garlic: raw garlic is nature’s antibiotic. We eat raw garlic spread on bread or crackers (with a little butter) every day with our soup. The kids love it! I also made some garlic syrup (just Google to get a recipe)- but this was very time consuming as I had to peel and chop a pound of garlic and let it steep for a few days. No matter how you decide to take it, garlic is very effective both in prevention and healing.
4.       Teas: I gave the coughing kids Herba-tussin tea (by Traditional Medicines) which contains beneficial herbs to soothe the lungs and help expel the mucus. My favorite homemade tea is Thyme Tea. Steep a few twigs of thyme leaves in a quart of boiling water for 15 minutes. Discard leaves and add raw honey to taste. Drink a half cup 2 times a day. Thyme is an expectorant (helps the mucous to be coughed up), a sedative (for sleep) and an anti-spasmodic (relaxes the lung muscles). This is great to drink before bed. We had great success with this herb. My 8 year old "farmer" found this remedy in one of his books and shared it with his mamma! Can also be used for other lung conditions such as asthma or bronchitis. (Note: pregnant women should avoid this herb as it may cause uterine contractions).
5.       Natural cough syrup:  there are many variations to this recipe. I mixed 1/3 cup honey, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons turmeric and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Give with a little bit of melted coconut oil (also strengthens the immune system) You can also drink warm milk mixed with 2 teaspoons of turmeric to help with coughing. I prefer canned coconut milk, but any milk will do. Turmeric is a yellow spice often used in cooking that has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and is a natural antiseptic and natural painkiller.
6.       Daily probiotic to replace healthy bacteria in the gut, especially when on an antibiotic. Make sure you take the probiotic at a different time of the day as the antibiotic. I use a powder form and mix with a spoonful of applesauce.
7.       Daily intake of fresh vegetables and fruits, especially berries. We drink smoothies made with canned coconut milk, raw honey and strawberries and/or blueberries or freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. I also open up several capsules of Juice Plus to boost nutrients...
8.       Zinc: zinc is recommended to promote healing. I gave the little ones a natural product called “Zarbees” before bedtime. It contains honey, Vitamin C, Zinc and Melatonin to promote sleep. I found this worked especially well for the initial dry, hacking cough. You can buy this in the cold care section at Wal-Mart.
9.       Essential Oils: this is probably my favorite natural remedy! My friend, Anna, gave me a crash course on oils that help with whooping cough. I hope to write a post soon explaining how essential oils work and bring healing to the body, but for now, here are the ones we are using and they REALLY work:
·         Thieves: rub on chest and on feet several times a day. Alternate at times with other essential oils like frankincense or eucalyptus globulus. I added 2 or 3 drops to a little coconut oil and rubbed onto chest and bottoms of feet. Thieves is a blend of cloves, lemon, eucalyptus radiata and rosemary officinalus. Thieves has a very high action against viruses, bacteria and fungus.
·         Lemon oil: a drop or 2 inside a glass of water helps to cut mucus. My one son also really was helped by a drop of peppermint on his tongue. It helped him open up when he felt like the mucus was stuck in his throat. Caution- do not use just any essential oil internally. The only company (that I know of) that makes essential oils that are safe to consume internally is Young Living.
·         Diffuse: we took turns diffusing different essential oils (using a Young Living cool mist humidifier). I moved the diffuser to different rooms throughout the day and even moved it between bedrooms at night. I wish I had more than one! Diffusing Thieves helps to clean the air and builds up the immune system. Diffusing Frankincense helps fight infection, stimulate the immune system, relax muscles and ease congestion (among so many other things).
·         Peace & Calming is good for both massaging on feet before bed and for diffusing to bring calm to both mind and body. This blend is a combination of blue tansy, patchouli, tangerine, orange and ylang ylang.

Each evening the children lined up to receive their oils before bedtime. I found Thieves to especially help the baby, since I couldn’t give her many of the other things I was giving the older kids. One night she was a little raspy in her chest, and the next morning she was totally fine. I found she took her longest naps when I diffused Thieves or Frankincense by her bed during nap time.

Here is the recipe for the soup… I add a package of cremini mushrooms (baby portabellas) to this soup because these mushrooms contain an antibody that has been found to reduce harmful bacteria and viruses and boost immunity for several days after eating them. This soup is pureed, great for little kids- even the baby likes it...

Healing Carrot Bisque
Coconut oil (I use Spectrum for cooking) or olive oil
1 large onion
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 8 oz. package of cremini mushrooms
1 pound of organic carrots, washed well and sliced
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 quart homemade chicken or beef stock
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Herbs to your liking (rosemary, thyme, parsley) or leave out

Coat large pan with coconut oil. Sauté onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft and fragrant. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, herbs, salt and pepper, stock and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 1 hour or longer. Puree with an immersion blender adding more water if necessary. Add more seasonings if needed. Enjoy!

We are 1 month into this sickness and so far we have one on the upswing from a few really rough nights. (This is the child that won't take garlic, drink thyme tea or many of the other natural remedies we are doing.) I have 1 coughing pretty badly , especially at night and 2 that are coughing occasionally around the clock with just a dry, hacking cough. The baby has been raspy a few times during the night (I would explain it as a heaviness in her chest), but is generally happy and has been sleeping more than usual. The other 5 kids have no symptoms at all. Apparently we still have 3 weeks in which all of them could come down with it or get worse! Praying that the Lord will spare my precious children in the weeks to come and that He will bless my humble efforts in helping to build their bodies to fight this.

Will keep you posted!


  1. How did your children do throughout the course of whooping cough? My 8 month old is on week 2 of the paroxysmal stage. Were any of your children hospitalized?

    1. Hi! I'm so sorry to hear your baby has WC. Only 5 (6?) of my 10 children ended up getting it. My oldest 3 never had it, and my number 4 only had it very, very mildly- more like a cold. My baby at the time never had it either- and of course, I was the most worried about her. And no, none of them were ever hospitalized, thankfully. I was introduced to essential oils at that time, and now, 3 years later and knowing so much more about them, I would definitely have used oils even more. They are powerful, natural remedies. Diffusing them for the baby would be safe and beneficial. You could try eucalyptus, oregano, thyme, basil, and/or peppermint if you have access to oils. Even rubbing lavender on baby's chest might be helpful. Saying a prayer for your family- WC is not fun!

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