Whooping cough or pertussis, as it is called in medical parlance, is a contagious disease. Unlike some other diseases, a new born baby has no immunity to this disease, and can get it any time after birth. It commonly affects infants during the first year of their life, when it is very severe and most of the deaths due to it occur during this period. Many cases occur in children upto 5 years of age. In some cases children upto 12 years may also be affected. The disease may cause serious trouble in the lungs.
This highly infectious disease is caused by bacteria. It spreads rapidly from one child to another by droplet-infection. This is especially so during the early catarrhal stage, but once the typical spasmodic bout starts, the infectivity becomes negligible. This disease has a prolonged course of 8 to 10 weeks.
The disease has a catarrhal and a spasmodic stage. For the first week, the cough is like an ordinary upper respiratory catarrh. At the end of a week, it becomes spasmodic and comes in bouts, initially more often during the night, but later during the day as well. The child goes on coughing. His face becomes red and suffused, the tongue protrudes and the eyes begin to water. At the end of the bout, the child takes a deep breath, and there is a prolonged croaking sound which is called a whoop. This sound is produced by the air entering through a partially closed glottis (entrance to the larynx). This gives the disease its name. The child brings out a sticky secretion from his nose and mouth and very often vomits. At the end of the bout, the child lies back exhausted. Gradually, over the next three or four weeks, the bouts of cough and their duration become less and disappear in about 8 to 10 weeks from the beginning of the disease. In immunized children, the disease is mild and atypical.
Due to the severity of bouts of cough, bleeding can occur into the eyes, from the nose, the lung, and , in rare cases, into the brain, resulting in convulsions. In many young children, lung complications such as collapse of a part of the lung are common because of the thick sticky nature of the secretions blocking the passage of air to a part of the lung. Secondary infection may result in pneumonia. They may be convulsions, and, in rare cases, inflammation of the brain.
Whooping cough is caused by the micro-organisms Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis. Of these, the first one gives the rise to more severe infections. Whooping cough is also associated with various adinoviruses, para-influenza and respiratory viruses. The actual cause of the disease, however, is wrong feeding of children with refined and deminralised foods and absence of a sufficient quantity of fresh fruits and salad vegetables in their dietary. This results in accumulation of excessive quantities of catarrh and mucus in the child’s system. The disease is an attempt on the part of the nature to throw out this catarrh and mucus. The use of drugs to treat other diseases can also lead to whooping cough.
In the beginning of the treatment, the child should be placed on a fast, on orange juice and water for few days. He should be given the juice of an orange diluted with warm water on 50:50 basis. He should not be given milk or anything else. He should be given warm water enema daily during this period to cleanse the bowels. In case of constipation, a mild laxative, preferably castor oil, should be administered. This will also relieve the pain in the abdominal muscles which are usually strained during the paroxysms of coughing. Cold packs should be applied to the throat and upper chest as required. Epsom-salt baths will be beneficial during this period.
After the more sever symptoms have cleared, the patient should be placed on an exclusive diet of fresh fruits for a few days. IN this regimen, we should take fresh juicy fruits such as apple, orange, pineapple and papaya. After further recovery, he can adopt a regular well-balanced diet, according to his age. The emphasis should be on fresh fruit, fruit and vegetable juices and milk. When the convalescent stage has been reached, the child should be encouraged to spend as much time as possible out of doors.
Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of whooping cough. The most effective of these remedies is the use of garlic. The syrup of garlic should be given in the dosage of five drops to a tablespoon two or three times a day for treating this condition. It should be given more often if the coughing spells are frequent and violent.
Ginger ( adrak) is another effective remedy for whooping cough. A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice, mixed with a cup of fenugreek (methi) decoction and honey to taste, is an excellent diaphoretic. It acts as an expectorant in this disease.
A syrup prepared by mixing a teaspoon of fresh radish (muli) with equal quantity of honey and a little rock salt, is beneficial in the treatment of this disease. It should be given thrice daily.
Almond (badam) oil is valuable in whooping cough. It should be given missed with 10 drops each of fresh white onion juice and ginger juice, daily thrice for a fortnight. It will give relief.