Whooping Cough Treatment At Home: 17 Home Remedies And Causes

Medically reviewed by Dr. Abby Kramer, DC
by Sucharita Mishra

If you are coughing uncontrollably and experience a whooping sound while trying to breathe, it may mean that you have contracted whooping cough. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease (1). It may result in unmanageable coughing spells and difficulty in breathing. Although this infection may affect anybody, it is more common and severe in infants and children. It may even cause breathing difficulty and become life-threatening.

In this article, we will discuss a few natural home remedies to treat the infection. Read on to find more about whooping cough and its causes and symptoms in adults and children.

How To Treat Whooping Cough Naturally

1. Essential Oils

a. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has antibacterial, antiseptic, and antispasmodic effects (2), (3). This may prove beneficial in the treatment of whooping cough and its symptoms.

You Will Need
  • 1-2 drops of peppermint oil
  • 1 tablespoon of any carrier oil like coconut or olive oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix peppermint oil with a carrier oil of your choice.
  2. Apply this mixture on your chest and back.
  3. Alternatively, you can also add a drop of peppermint oil to hot water and inhale the steam.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1-2 times a day.

b. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has traditionally been used to treat disorders of the respiratory tract, like bronchitis, pharyngitis, and sinusitis (4). Hence, it may help in relieving the symptoms of whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • 1 tablespoon of any carrier oil like coconut or olive oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix eucalyptus oil with any carrier oil.
  2. Apply this blend to your chest and back.
  3. You can also add a drop of eucalyptus oil to some hot water and inhale the steam.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 times a day.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the best ways to treat whooping cough (5), (6). Babies up to 6 months of age receive the required amounts of vitamin C through breast milk. For children older than 6 months, vitamin C intake may be increased through their diet. Adults require around 70 to 90 mg of vitamin C on a daily basis, while infants require about 40 mg of the same. Although you can opt for vitamin C supplements, it is a better option to increase its intake naturally via your diet.

3. Onion

Onions exhibit antibacterial activities (7). This may help in treating whooping cough and also improve overall immunity.

You Will Need
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1/4 cup of honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Peel and cut the onion into small pieces.
  2. Mash these pieces and add honey to this.
  3. Let this mixture sit overnight.
  4. Consume a teaspoon of this every few hours.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this multiple times a day.

4. Garlic

Garlic contains a compound called allicin that exhibits antibacterial activities (8). These properties of garlic may be used to combat the bacteria that cause whooping cough (9).

You Will Need
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Smash the garlic cloves.
  2. Extract the juice from the smashed garlic and consume this daily.
  3. You can also add honey for flavor.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin that has antimicrobial properties (10). Turmeric can help treat whooping cough and shortness of breath (11).

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 glass of hot milk
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of hot milk. Mix well.
  2. Consume this daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 times a day.

6. Ginger

Ginger is a natural expectorant and contains a compound called gingerol. The gingerol possesses strong antibacterial properties (12). These properties of ginger may help in combating whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1-2 inches of ginger
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Mince the ginger to make a paste.
  2. Extract the juice from the minced ginger and consume it daily.
  3. You can also add honey for flavor.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 times a day.

7. Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup possesses antibacterial properties and chemical compounds that boost immunity (13), (14). This may help in treating whooping cough and cold.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup
  • 1 cup of any fruit juice or warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add elderberry syrup to a cup of fruit juice or warm water.
  2. Consume this daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 3 times a day for a week.

8. Green Tea

Green tea contains catechins and polyphenols that possess strong antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties (15), (16). These may help in killing the bacteria that cause whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of green tea leaves
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Steep the green tea leaves in a cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add honey for flavor and consume the tea before it turns cold.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

9. Salt Water

Several studies have found that using salt water is beneficial for cold and cough (17). Hence it may help in treating whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a teaspoon of salt in a cup of hot water.
  2. Gargle with this water.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once a day.

10. Humidifier

Keeping the environment relatively moist reduces the intensity and severity of cough (18). Installing a humidifier in the room of the infected individual may help in treating whooping cough. Additionally, adding essential oils to the humidifier may be beneficial.

11. Oregano

Oregano is a natural expectorant that has antibacterial properties (19). This may help in treating whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 4-5 drops of oregano oil
  • 1 tablespoon of any carrier oil like coconut oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a few drops of oregano oil with any carrier oil.
  2. Rub this mixture on your chest and back.
  3. Alternatively, you can also add 4-5 drops of oregano oil to hot water and inhale the steam or consume oregano tea.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1-2 times a day.

12. Honey

Studies have found honey to be helpful in treating cough in children (20). Hence, it may also help in treating the symptoms of whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of organic honey
  • 1 cup of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add organic honey to a cup of warm water and mix well.
  2. Consume this mixture daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

13. Lemon

Lemon is a rich source of vitamin C and possesses antibacterial properties (21). These properties may be effective in treating whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 glass of water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Squeeze half a lemon into a glass of water.
  2. Add honey for flavor and consume daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

14. Licorice

Licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid (22). This compound exhibits immune boosting activities. It also works as a demulcent and helps in accelerating the healing of tissues damaged by persistent coughing (23). This may help in treating whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of licorice root
  • 1 cup of water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Steep the licorice in a cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Strain and consume this tea before it turns cold.
  3. You can also add honey for flavor.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

15. Almonds

The polyphenols present in the skins of almonds exhibit antibacterial properties (24). This may help in fighting the bacteria that cause whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 6-7 almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of butter
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak some almonds in water overnight.
  2. Grind them the next morning with butter.
  3. Consume this mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

16. Chamomile

Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antiphlogistic (ability to reduce inflammation) properties (25). This may help in relieving fever and inflammation associated with whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 1-2 teaspoons of dried chamomile
  • 1 cup of water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Steep two teaspoons of chamomile herb in a cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Strain and add honey for flavor.
  3. Consume the tea before it turns cold.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times a day.

17. Saffron

Saffron acts as an expectorant and is also an antibacterial (26). This may help in treating whooping cough.

You Will Need
  • 6 saffron strands
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak the saffron strands in a cup of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add honey for flavor and consume this daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink this 2 times a day.

All these remedies can help relieve the symptoms of whooping cough for you and your little one. However, you must use them in moderation.

In addition to the remedies, you may also follow the tips mentioned below to prevent the recurrence of the infection.

Preventive Tips

  • Maintain basic hygiene by washing hands before eating and covering the mouth and nose while sneezing.
  • Practice yoga and exercises to strengthen the lungs and improve breathing.
  • Practice breathing exercises to improve the functioning of the lungs.
  • Follow a proper diet that includes all the important minerals and vitamins needed for the body to recover soon.
  • Try to stay as dry and warm as possible to avoid further health complications.
  • Take ample amounts of rest to enable the body to recover faster.
  • Stay away from allergens, such as dust and pollen, that can worsen the condition.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Consume fresh fruits, milk, eggs, and ginger tea.
  • Keep the body hydrated by drinking enough water and fruit juices. This can ease the dryness in the throat.

These preventive tips may help in increasing the efficiency of the treatments against whooping cough, and this, in turn, may accelerate recovery. Once you have recovered, take precautions to avoid chances of reinfection. If left untreated, whooping cough may cause drastic side effects in the long run.

Long-Term Effects Of Whooping Cough

Most adults and teens may recover from whooping cough without much complication. But the scenario is quite different in the case of infants under 6 months, and the complications are much severe. The long-term side effects of whooping cough in infants are as follows:

It is a dangerous disease for children due to their inability to manage its symptoms. Let us now look at the causes of this infectious condition.

Causes Of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. These contagious bacteria are the sole cause of this infection in both adults and infants (27). When the cough droplets dispersed by an infected individual are inhaled by an uninfected individual or child, it leads to whooping cough in the latter as well.

The onset of the infection is accompanied by a series of symptoms that may vary in their severity.

Signs And Symptoms Of Whooping Cough

The symptoms of whooping cough are almost similar in both adults and babies, with only slight variations.

In Adults

  • Violent and rapid coughing, sometimes followed by puking
  • Fever
  • Intermittent sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Watery eyes

In Infants

  • Runny nose
  • Low fever
  • Mild cough and sneezing
  • Infants under the age of one may turn blue when breathing becomes difficult.
  • Vomiting

The symptoms are often mild in the beginning but turn severe with time. This bacterial infection may have dangerous consequences if not treated immediately.

The remedies mentioned in this article may help you deal with whooping cough to a certain extent. However, it may take longer for them to act on your little one. Hence, it is recommended to consult a doctor if your infant is under 6 months and affected by this condition. This is because infants are at a higher risk of life-threatening complications arising from the infection.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What is the difference between a cough and whooping cough?

Coughing is usually a reflex action to any foreign substance or mucus in the throat that only lasts for some time. But whooping cough is characterized by continuous bouts of coughing until the lungs are emptied, and this is usually followed by a ‘whooping’ sound when an individual tries to inhale.

What are the pros and cons of taking a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy?

Pregnant women need to take the whooping cough vaccine during the third trimester of their pregnancy. This is to ensure the protection of their baby against whooping cough in the first few critical months after birth. However, in some rare cases, infant deaths from whooping cough have been reported in spite of vaccinating their mothers.

What are the three stages of whooping cough?

The course of whooping cough is usually classified into three stages:

  • The first stage is the catarrhal or runny nose stage. This stage lasts for almost two weeks and is often accompanied by occasional coughs, sneezing, and nasal congestion.
  • The second stage is the paroxysmal stage. This stage varies in its duration and could last anywhere from 1 to 10 weeks. The paroxysmal stage is often characterized by continuous and intense bouts of coughing. This stage could prove fatal for newborns as the drawn-out coughing sessions could leave them breathless.
  • The third and final stage is the convalescent stage that can last from weeks to months. It is during this stage that the chronic coughing sessions become less paroxysmal, and the affected individual starts to recover.

26 sources

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Sucharita Mishra

Sucharita Mishra has a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has worked on determining various heavy metals present in green tea for her Master’s dissertation at CSIR- CFTRI, Mysuru. After completing her degree, Sucharita decided to pursue her passion for writing. She is addicted to all things black and aspires to become a bat one day.
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