Clinical Cases

Revisiting: Carpet Cleaning Ends In Coughing

Written by Elaine Lewis

Do you remember last month’s exciting quiz? Did you try to guess the answer? See if you guessed right as Elaine shows how to solve the case.

It’s time for the answer to last month’s quiz! Do you remember it? Here it is again:

Hi Elaine,

My mother, K______, has developed a bad cough and we need your help please. She says she thinks it started Thursday, after having the carpet cleaned the day before. She says she stayed in the house while they sprayed the pre-treatment solution and wonders if that exposure to chemicals is what caused the upper respiratory problem.

She has always had a weak upper respiratory system since having whooping cough in childhood and then an exposure to chemicals in the early 1960’s. She wanted to clean a rug and mixed some cleaning products together — probably ammonia and bleach — and then had trouble breathing. I mention this because she thinks that episode is what has caused her upper respiratory weakness.

The symptoms she presents now are what I would call a dry, nonproductive, sort of hollow sounding cough. Earlier she said it started in her throat. She said it strains her throat to cough. She cannot suppress the cough. It hurts to cough. Earlier she said her chest didn’t hurt but now she says her chest hurts.

One of the most significant things I noticed is her eyes: Her eyes are like slits. Definitely not her usual look. Sort of the droopy eyelids in Gelsemium but not really what I would call “besotted”. Hard to describe except to say her eyes are like slits. She also says they are watery and seem to have a film. I noticed “gunk” in the inner corners. I would say her expression is somewhat pained. She has incontinence with the cough. She always has an incontinence problem — from sneezing or coughing — but it is so much worse when she has a hacking cough like this.

She normally lives alone and if I hadn’t gone over to see her, I think she would have been in the bed all day. When I was over earlier we sat outside some and she may have been better for the fresh air. I’m not sure if it was the fresh air or having the company of my daughter, who is with her now and they are doing a crossword puzzle and she said she was better for having her there, that it kept her mind off feeling bad.

Can’t think of anything else to report. Not better for eating or drinking. Says she has no appetite. No desire for anything in particular. Just says she is “aggravated” with the cough. Sounds impatient and irritated about being sick.

This is the sickest she has been in a long time, though, and I am concerned. Would really appreciate your help.



So how well did all of you do? Not too well! Do you know that almost everyone came up with a different answer? We had Spongia, Kali carb., Amonium carb., Phosphorus, Sepia, Arsenicum, Bromium, one person voted for three remedies–not fair!–and then finally we got a correct answer from Gabi– BRYONIA!

You know, as soon as I hear “dry painful cough”, I think of Bryonia! If you see a keynote of a remedy in a case? Go for it! Of course, you do have to confirm it.  Can I confirm Bryonia?  Hmm…cough is dry, painful, patient is irritable, patient stayed in bed all day, yep, sounds like Bryonia!

I knew it also covered the involuntary urination from coughing; I didn’t know about the eyes half-closed though, I had to look that one up (Eyes: open, eyelids half open).

I can see that a lot of you zeroed-in on symptoms of lesser significance or lesser clarity in the case, like the loss of urine while coughing (those were the Sepia voters!) and the ailments from Ammonia (but that was a supposition by “D” and her mother, and actually, the immediate result from breathing in the carpet cleaner chemicals was difficulty in breathing; maybe Ammonium carb. would have been a good remedy to take right then and there to combat that symptom and maybe stop the cough or cold before it started). But by the time the cough develops, and we’re not sure how long that takes, we have a specific cough presentation that we have to deal with.

The rubric the remedy has to be in is “Painful cough” (Cough: painful). If you look under that rubric, you have Bryonia as a 3, Causticum as a 3, Cuprum as a 3 and Allium Cepa as a 3. There is no confirmation for any of these except Bryonia. Causticum is ameliorated by cold drinks, so is Cuprum.  “D”, in this case, states that her mother was not ameliorated by drinking. There’s nothing to support Allium cepa with its runny nose and eyes, sneezing and worse in a warm room; there were not too many remedies in italics in this rubric either, just Caps, Agaricus, Mercurius, and Ail. … there’s no confirmation for any of these; so, Bryonia wins!

So remember folks, when you hear “painful cough”, don’t forget Bryonia!

What does our lovely winner, Gabi, win today, Dr. B?


This month’s winners will get a special 30% discount on one order of books from Hpathy Mall.

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About the author

Elaine Lewis

Elaine Lewis, D.Hom., C.Hom.
Elaine is a passionate homeopath, helping people offline as well as online. Contact her at [email protected]
Elaine is a graduate of Robin Murphy's Hahnemann Academy of North America and author of many articles on homeopathy including her monthly feature in the Hpathy ezine, "The Quiz". Visit her website at: and

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