Homeopathy has much to offer in the management of acute symptoms of a cough or croup and a few remedies on hand can be helpful, particularly for croup, which has a tendency to come on suddenly!
Sometimes a visit to the hospital or GP is required but you can still use your remedies at all stages, to minimise symptoms and support recovery, if this does happen.
While croup is a still classified as a cough, it’s arrival with paroxysmal coughing, gasping or a choking attack in the middle of the night (although sometimes in the day too), can be frightening for both parents and child and is often when the ambulance or one of the helps lines is called.
if your child is having recurring bouts of either coughs or croup, that you are constantly managing with remedies, you do need to consult your homeopath to deal with the underlying weakness. Good homeopathic prescribing can strengthen the lungs and reduce/stop the frequency of attacks.
Coughs are a problem for many kids these days and often linger after colds. Below are some of the indications for a selection of the more common cough remedies.
As always if someone has a long standing or obstinate cough which is not responding to home treatment contact your homeopath or healthcare provider. In fact, the sooner you get support for a recurrent cough, the better the outcomes. A lingering cough where many remedies have been tried can make working out the correct remedy more difficult for your homeopath.
Whooping cough (covered in a separate blog/article) is always a possibility even if vaccinated and is endemic in some areas. It is a notifiable disease and requires diagnosis by a GP but the symptoms can be managed with homeopathy. It will generally require the support of your homeopath for satisfactory resolution and to avoid any long term side effects..
You will see that many of these remedies look similar which is why coughs can be difficult to treat at home. Looking for some of the mental/emotional symptoms by careful observation can be very helpful in selecting a remedy, as this narrows down the choice.
Remedies for Coughs
Aconite (Aco) Coughs and croup come on very suddenly after exposure to cold, dry air or wind, often around midnight. Frequently accompanied by high fever but not always. Children may wake from the first part of sleep with a dry, barking cough. Generally there is no mucous. Patient (and parents!) may be highly anxious, restless or fearful.
Worse at night or during sleep, child may wake at midnight with cough (similar to Spongia).
Antimonium Tartaricum (Ant-t) Typically this presents as a noisy, rattling cough as if the chest is filled with mucous. This rattling mucous may be difficult to cough up, particularly in small babies and old people. Gagging and vomiting of mucous or food with the cough. Often the child will not want to be looked at, disturbed or spoken to. The cough may be worse for eating. There may be paroxsyms of coughing and thirstlessness with the cough
Worse at night especially from 10pm to midnight, for eating, for warmth, lying down.
Better for coughing up mucous, sitting up.
Arsenicum Album (Ars Alb) Cough from allergy or infection or irritated air passages. The patient is often chilly, restless, anxious, thirsty for sips.
Worse night from 12 to 2am, for cold or open air, for cold drinks.
Better for warmth and warm drinks and for sitting upright.
Bryonia Very painful dry cough which comes on with each movement or deep breathing. May hold the chest or head with the cough. May be very thirsty and very irritable.
Worse for eating or swallowing, overheating, lying with the head low.
Better for open air.
Belladonna (Bell) High fever with paroxysms of coughing. Hard, barking cough. Suffocating cough with pain in the larynx, waking after midnight. Child cries out before the cough. Fever with red, hot face, swollen, glassy, red eyes and dilated pupils.
Worse around 3pm, for touch or jarring.
Calc Carb (Calc C) I find this a good remedy in small children where Pulsatilla appears indicated but doesn’t do the job. Chesty, loose, yellow mucous, dry at night and loose in the morning. As if a plug of mucous is moving up and down in the trachea provoking the cough. This is often a good remedy to finish up a cough which has lingered on for a while.
Worse for cold damp weather, drafts, eating, during teething.
Chamomilla (Cham) Coughs in children and infants especially during teething. Chronic cough in irritable, difficult children – also consider Nux Vomica.
Worse for anger, at night during sleep, at 10pm and 9am (roughly).
Drosera (Dros) This is the classic whooping cough remedy but it doesn’t have to be whooping cough that you are treating, just a nasty cough. May present with paroxysms of hard, deep and often violent cough. Very irritated airways with tickling and dryness in throat. Painful cough – must hold chest. Suffocative cough, so painful he cannot cough until he holds his stomach.
Worse at night especially 12 to 2am, for drinking or eating, talking, for smoke, as soon as the head touches the pillow.
Better on sitting up, walking slowly.
Hepar Sulph (Hep S) Productive cough with thick yellow mucus or can be dry and croupy. Patient is often irritable, very cold and cough can be worse for being uncovered or undressing, as well as for drafts.
Worse evening in bed until midnight, for cold weather and cold air and for cold drink or food.
Better for warmth and bringing up mucous.
Ipecac (Ip) Incessant, violent coughing with every breath. Violent gagging and vomiting from the cough, with or without nausea. Chest sounds full of mucous which is not better for coughing (compare Ant Tart).
Worse for warmth, dampness.
Kali Bich (Kali-bi) Hacking, brassy or choking cough, with expectoration of sticky, thick, yellow mucous which can be drawn out in strings. Rattling, productive cough often associated with sinusitis. Mucous is difficult to cough up, sounds stuck and sticky.
Worse at night from1 to 3 am, from eating.
Better once he warms up in bed, for sitting up, a little better for coughing up some mucous.
Phosphorus (Phos) Every cold seems to go to the chest – these children really do need constitutional treatment! Dry, tickly, exhausting cough. Tightness of chest with racking, painful cough. Trembling and exhaustion with cough. Headache with cough. Hoarseness and almost total loss of voice. Mucous may be clear, green or tinged with blood.
Worse in the evening/twilight, for cold air, talking, going from a warm room into the cold.
Better for warmth.
Pulsatilla (Puls) Loose rattling cough with copious yellow/green mucous. It’s good for children with night time coughs from post nasal drip and the cough may be dry at night and loose in the morning. These children will be clingy and weepy when they are sick.
Worse in the evening or at night in bed, becoming cold, from a warm room, after becoming wet, for warm drinks.
Better for open or cool air, gentle walking, lying propped up.
Spongia (Spong) Dry hacking cough often described as seal like. Barking, croupy or irritate cough often with constriction or tickling in the larynx. Suffocative cough.
Worse before or at midnight, for cold dry air, for cold drinks.
Better Warm drinks or food, from eating, drinking or nursing, from sucking on a lolly, from bending the head forward.
While the remedies for Croup are generally the same as for Coughs, there are a few additional symptoms which I’ve listed separately. Read the remedies below in conjunction with the Cough notes above. There are obviously many more remedies for Croup but professional help would be required to select some of the smaller remedies. Generally we would look at the whole child rather than just the Croup.
I have no doubt that all parents would go to the hospital if croup was severe, however, if you live a distance from your nearest ED you can use remedies while you make the trip or wait for the ambulance.
The first three remedies below are what we traditionally term the “croup trio” and are most often indicated. They may be required in stages 1 to 3 as listed, or may just be selected according to need.
Most people will tend to recognize Aconite as the first remedy for croup, but any of the three below could be indicated.
If symptoms are strong give the 30c potency every 10 minutes for up to 5 doses or until symptoms start to settle – whichever happens first. Then repeat the dose either if the symptoms come back or every 2 hours for the first day. Change the remedy if the symptom picture seems to change, eg Hepar Sulph or Spongia may follow Aconite.
Often if Aconite is indicated first but doesn’t completely halt the progress, Hepar Sulph may be indicated if the croupy cough settles into a loose, hacking cough.
In ongoing cases, particularly where there has been a hospital/GP visit, constitutional treatment is the best option to strengthen the immune system. This is also the case where the bouts are recurrent.
- Aconite – mainly useful on the first day of the attack. In addition to the comments under Cough, the child may wake with stridor (def; a harsh respiratory sound due to any of various forms of obstruction of the breathing passages), which is worse on inspiration and for drinking. The child may cling to the parents. Also see under Cough.
- Spongia – Dry barking cough, often described as a seal’s bark or at other times as the sound made by a saw going through wood. Noisy, whistling, wheezing type of stridor (see above). Child wakes with fright and a suffocative cough. Also see under Cough.
- Hepar Sulph – Croup comes on in the night, often at 2 to 4am or toward morning with thick rattling, yellow-green mucous. Better for moist warm air such as shower or vaporiser. Also see under Cough.
Drosera – Dry, barking cough. Tickly, irritating, spasmodic cough with wheezing. Child may hold chest when coughing. Worse at night on lying down. Also see under Cough.
Ipecac – Croup with gagging, retching or vomiting. Often with an audible wheeze and even cyanosis (blueness) – seek emergency assistance in this situation. Worse at night, in a warm room. Also see under Cough.
Kali Bich – “Metallic” sounding cough and spells of breathlessness. Thick, stringy mucous. Worse at night, from cold air. Also see under Cough.
Phosphorus – Hard racking painful cough causing the child to hold his chest. Also see Cough above.
As always if your home prescribing is unsuccessful seek help from your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Desktop Companion to Physical Pathology; Roger Morrison MD
Nature’s Materia Medica; Murphy