My alternative cough cure

Having four children I am more than used to those daunting nights when you know you in for an all-nighter – and I don’t mean the Ibiza weekender variety!!

Alas, I’m talking about the one where one of the kids wakes up with that horrible chest infection and has a nasty, scratchy, persistent cough.  You know all you can do is try and keep them comfortable, keep them sipping water and try to get them to sleep upright.  But what I was not used to and utterly unprepared for was nearly three years of all-nighters!

From the age of 3 months to 3 years old, my 2nd youngest, Alfie, suffered terribly with his chest.  Come every evening, he would start coughing.  At first it would be a niggling tickle, so I’d rub the Vicks on his chest & feet.  For a short while this stopped it but as the nights went on he just got worse and worse.  He’d be so tired with the constant interrupted sleep, it would knock on to the next day and he’d be exhausted.

Things got worse and worse and these coughing attacks developed in to full on coughing fits where he’d struggle to breathe, and most nights would projectile vomit.  This was a weekly occurrence and every time I took him to the doctors they would say there was nothing they could do for him.  It was such a tough time – he would be so exhausted and tired the whole time; and living on no more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, I was like the walking dead too.

I was at my wits end after months of no sleep.  Often he would be in my bed, laying on my tummy. I’d have to tap his back to try and loosen up the mucus and try (in vain) to get him asleep.  Some nights we wouldn’t get any sleep until past 5am; then I’d have to be up at 7am with the other boys.  So many times we ended up in a walk-in centre or A&E in the early hours, because he could hardly breathe and was in so much pain as his throat was raw with he coughing.  Most the time we were sent away and told there was nothing they could do for him that it must be viral.  A pretty long viral infection if you ask me!

It was exhausting, I was an emotional wreck.  At the time I was in the West End playing Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers.  The lack of sleep and raw emotions actually worked well for me in that role, but once the show was over and I’d be heading home I’d get that foreboding fear of ‘here we go again… .’  I can honestly say sleep deprivation is possibly one of the hardest things I’ve had to tackle as a parent.

Eventually we were told he had asthma and that we should put him on steroids.  However I wasn’t convinced as he never coughed during the day, nor when he ran, rode a bike, or played with his brothers.  It was only of an evening when he lay down.  So I asked if we could be referred to a specialist.  Eventually after months and months, we got to see one.

We were told that his mucus tubes were underdeveloped, so when he lay flat it wasn’t able to drain away like it should.  They also gave us a saline nasal spray to flush the mucus out, and we put a pillow under his cot mattress so that he could sleep on an angle.  Both worked wonders but the issues still persisted at times.  In the end, I turned to natural remedies and I was also told by a good friend about the benefits of Elderberry syrup.

Elderberries are a rich source of vitamins A and C.  Plus, the bioflavonoids in elderberry syrup boost the body’s immune system and reduces mucus production.

This simple natural syrup, that can be bought over the counter in any health shop, was my saviour!  Now I wouldn’t give the kids anything else once the winter coughs and sniffles start to kick in.  It was genuinely the ONE thing that seemed to help Alfie’s condition.

Now I wouldn’t give the kids anything else once the winter coughs and sniffles start to kick in.

When you go through months and months of watching your child endure something like he did, it is torture, it’s unbearable to witness.  Then to be told there’s nothing that can be done is so frustrating.  I’m just so glad that I didn’t put him on the steroids and opted for the good old fashioned herbal remedy ‘Elderberry Syrup’ instead.

It goes to show that for all our advancements in medicine, there’s still a lot to be said for the herbal remedies of years ago.  The other important thing I took away from that whole situation is ‘Mum Knows Best’.  I just knew Alfie didn’t have asthma, I knew there was something else that needed to be investigated.  So trust your instincts.  While I fully respect doctors and they are the educated professionals, you know your child better than anyone.  If you feel something’s not right, don’t ever be frightened to speak up.

You can buy Elderberry Syrup in most health shops, from Amazon, or have it made up by a naturopath.  Or if you’re in to making your own herbal tinctures, there’s lots of elderberry syrup recipes online!  The Elder tree (see more at the Woodland Trust) on which the berries grow is native to the UK and much of Europe, and the berries (which are mildly toxic raw, so need to be cooked!) can be picked in September/October.

I’ll leave the Elderberry syrup making to the experts though… but I might give the ol’ Elderflower champagne a whirl!!