Whooping cough or Pertussis, as it is called in medical parlance, is a contagious disease. It is a very distressing condition which may cause serious trouble in the lungs. The disease appears to be epidemic, with seasonal outbreaks , especially during the winter months. The incubation period is between one and two weeks after exposure.
Unlike some other diseases, a new born baby has no immunity to whooping cough, and can get it any time after birth. It commonly affects infants during the first year of life, if they are not immunised. Many causes of whooping cough occur in children upto five years of age. In some cases, children upto 12 years may also be affected.
The disease has a catrrhal and a spasmodic stage. For the first week, the cough is like an ordinary upper respiratory catarrh. At the end of the 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 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 eight to 10 weeks from the begining of the disease. In immunized children, the disease is mild and a typical.
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, resultng 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. Other complications of the disease are otitis media (middle-ear infection), sinusitis, broncho- pneumonia, and prolapse of the rectum. Convulsions may also occur and in rare cases there may be inflammation of the brain.
Whooping cough is highly contagious, caused by rod-shaped bacilli, Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertusis. Of these, the first one gives rise to more severe infections. It is also associated with various adinoviruses, para-influenza and respiratory viruses.
It spreads rapidly from one child to another through droplets emitted by coughing. This is especially so during the early catarrhal stage, but once the typical spasmodic bout starts the infection becomes negligible.
The actual cause of the disease, however, is feeding the children with refined and demineralised foods and the absence of sufficient quantity of fresh fruits and salad vegetables in their diet. 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.
Good nursing care is essential to the treatment of whooping cough. The child-patient should be isolated from others and kept in a well-ventilated room. He should wear loose clothes and must be given plenty of liquids in between the attacks of coughing. Orange juice will be especially beneficial. It can be given diluted with warm water on 50 : 50 basis. If possible, a child 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. Wet packs should be applied to the throat and upper chest as necessary. The procedure for this is pack has been explained in the Appendix.
After the more severe symptoms have cleared, the patient should be placed on an exclusive diet of fresh fruits and milk for a few days. In this regimen, he should be given fresh juicy fruits such as apple, orange, pineapple and papaya with a cup of milk sweetened with honey. After further recovery, he can adopt a regular well-balanced diet, according to this age. The emphasis should be on fresh fruits, fruit and vegetable juices and milk. When the convalescent has been reached, the child should be encouraged to spend as much time as possible outdoors.
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 doses of five drops to a teaspoon two or three times a day for treating this condition. It should be given more often if the coughing spells are frequent and violent.
Use of ginger (adrak) is anotehr effective remedy for whoopng 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 raddish (muli) juice with an 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 also valuable in treating whooping cough. It should be given mixed with 10 drops each of fresh white onion juice, daily three times for a fortnight.