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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Whooping Cough: Some Alternatives

The wind is picking up, the snow is starting to fall. It looks like tomorrow could be another snow day around here. Of course, a snow day really is no fun if you're home sick in bed anyway. It's been a really mild season for influenza this year.  However, at least in my part of the world, everywhere you go, people seem to be struggling with coughs and colds. In many parts of the world and the country, there are outbreaks of whooping cough.

Whooping cough is a pretty alarming childhood disease in it's presentation.  It starts out like any other cold and most people experience a mild cough. Whooping cough is a bacterial infection caused by the bordetella pertussis bacteria,  that quickly spreads through droplet transmission.  Someone coughs or sneezes on you and the bacteria enters your body through the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and lungs.  About two to four weeks into what seems to be a relatively typical cold, the cough worsens. The whooping cough is characterized by short sharp coughs that comes in attacks or "fits" of up to 20 coughs in a row.  All that violent coughing expels most of the air from your passages so the intake of breath at the end of the coughing fit looks (and probably is) panicky and sounds a bit strange- like a "whoop" or an animal yelp. There is usually some phlegm that comes up with the cough and this is often accompanied by vomiting.  See what I mean- not fun to be home with!! On a good news note- there usually isn't a fever with all of this.

Like any bacterial infection, whooping cough can cause complications, particularly in young children. Sometimes these complications require hospitalization and advanced care. Like all bacterial infections, for some, the complications can be fatal.

Like all infectious diseases, the worst cases of whooping cough are seen in areas when there is a poorer standard of living and less sanitation or prevalence of clean food, water, and good hygiene.  During times of inadequate nutrition and poor hygiene the bacteria thrives and an outbreak can ravage through such a community. This happened in Europe on a pretty regular basis prior to the mid-18th Century.

Like many common childhood diseases, a vaccination was created to protect people from acquiring whooping cough.  The Pertussis vaccine has been around since 1912.  It's typically given as part of the series of vaccines given as the DPPT (Diptheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus)  and MMR (measles) series to pre-school and early adolescent children.

The vaccine is intended to allow your body to produce anti-bodies to the bacteria so if you are exposed to those droplets, your body will recognize and be able to launch a quick counter attack to the invasion. The vaccine doesn't produce life-long protection, so for this reason, it's relatively common to see Whooping Cough outbreaks on a cyclical basis.

In some areas of the world, particularly in regions where Whooping Cough is found in increased numbers lately, Public Health officials are recommending the vaccine be given. For some this might be a "booster" shot of the vaccine, for others a series of shots. The recommendations might involve "atypical" age groups.

If the vaccine is available and recommended for you or your family members and that feels right for you- I highly recommend you follow through.  I do however, believe in the power of "informed choice" and if that doesn't feel right for you, I suggest you do some research and understand there are alternatives worth researching so you can make the best choice for you and your family. And I truly believe, this is a personal decision. No choice is wrong.

In the world of Homeopathy  alternatives to traditional vaccinations are known as "nosodes".  Nosodes work in a similar fashion to vaccinations in that they encourage your body to recognize the particular bacteria so your body can create it's response mechanisms while you are healthy.  Your body then remembers the bacteria if you are exposed during an outbreak and you have a quicker immune response. The difference between nosodes and allopathic vaccines can be complicated, but the short version is that the nosodes only contain minute, diluted and successed levels of the bacteria- typically found on sugar pellets, while the allopathic vaccines contain greater amounts of the bacteria in combination with other chemical agents, typically given in a needle format.

There are a number of great books that explain in simple but detailed fashion the homeopathic alternative to immunization. I highly recommend both  An Educated Decision: One Approach to the Vaccination Problem Using Homeopathy, by Christina Head,  and Homeopathic Alternatives to Immunisation by Susan Curtis.

The Homeopathic nosode for Whooping Cough is called Pertussin. This is typically given once a week during an epidemic or three doses in one week if you have been exposed to the disease or had contact with someone with Whooping Cough.  These are given orally and don't require a physicain or clinic visit.

In allopathic or conventional medicine, the treatment options for Whooping cough are largely focused on antibiotics. There are also treatment alternatives for Whooping Cough within the field of homeopathy.  Unlike allopathic medicine, in the world of homeopathy, no two cases of whooping cough are exactly alike so the remedy needed for each patient will depend on their particular symptoms.  That's part of the reason why it's helpful to find a Homeopathic Practitioner you know and trust prior to an outbreak.   A few of the most likely remedies however, include Drosera, Antimonium Trtaricum (Ant-t), Belledona, Magnesia phosphorica, Cocus Cacti, Kali Carbonicum, Bryonia and Ipecac.  Which remedy is used depends on a number of factors specific to the type of cough, other symptoms such as the type of phlegm or vomiting, and the personality type of the patient. Homeopathy focuses on treating individual signs, symptoms and people, not a specific disease or syndrome so "one remedy doesn't fit all" in this world of alternative healing.

In my opinion, Public Health campaigns and vaccination strategies are not done with evil intention although I know there are some people that would argue that.  I believe for the most part, the people purporting these treatment options have your best interests at heart and they believe in what they do. They believe in science and what they have been taught. 

I also believe in the power of the unknown, the advantages of looking outside the box, of considering other points of view, and doing some research in science arenas that aren't as popular or publicized for the masses. Having done my research and personal experimentation I'm a big believer in homeopathy among other alternatives. I believe in multiple strategies and complimentary medicine.  I think there are positive components of almost every health strategy. Above all ,I think it's personal choice, but that involves personal work. 

When your child is sick with a cough that sounds like a wild animal and there is a mass campaign strategy on public media sites to vaccinate or take broad spectrum antibiotics, it's very difficult to look "outside the box". That's really not a good time to decide to experiment with something that is likely going to have some pretty heavy resistance in popular circles. When people are fighting in line-ups to get vaccine needles that may be in limited supply it can be difficult to go against the masses and decide to opt out.
It's probably a little easier to do your research before the first case of whooping cough gets diagnosed at the school your child attends. It's defiantly easier to find a homeopathic physician before you need some advice at midnight. You might be surprised at the peace of mind you can enjoy once you have done your research and  have a personal plan in place for you and your family's health care.

Whooping cough is a childhood disease. And childhood diseases are just that- dis-ease that typically occurs in children. Part of being a child is building immunity. Your body knows how to do this.  Most, but not all, people are equipped to develop such immunity. Some times we need a bit of help. 

Part of being a parent is going through the angst of childhood diseases as your child develops immunity and challenges your own.  Your body knows how to do this. Sometimes your mind needs a bit of help.  When that's the case, consider a few drops of the Bach Flower Cerato  breathe in and breathe out, do some research, ask some questions and follow your intuition.

Make the choice that's right for you and then relax in the knowledge that you are prepared not scared!

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