Whooping cough (also known as Pertussis) is a bacterial infection that involves respiratory tract of person. It spreads very easily, but vaccines like DTaP and Tdap can help prevent it in children and adults.
Pertussis is caused by bacteria Bordetella Pertusis.If a person with whooping cough sneezes, laughs, or coughs, small droplets containing this bacteria can fly through the air. You can get sick if you breathe in the drops.
When bacteria enter the airways, they attach to the small hairs on the lining of the lungs. The bacteria cause swelling and inflammation, leading to a long-lasting dry cough and other cold-like symptoms.
The time between exposure and the development of symptoms is on average 7–14 days (range 6–20 days), rarely as long as 42 days.
Whooping cough initially has the same symptoms as the average cold, such as a mild cough, sneezing, runny nose, low fever, etc.
You may also have diarrhea from the beginning.
After about 7-10 days, the cough turns into “coughing spells” that end with a high-pitched sound when the person tries to breathe air . Babies may not make the sound of a screech or even cough, but they may gasp for air or try to catch their breath during these periods that produce a sound “Whoop”.Some may vomit.
Because the cough is dry and mucus-free, these periods can last up to 1 minute. Sometimes it can make your face briefly red or purple.
Most people with pertussis have coughing episodes, but not all do.
Sometimes adults with the condition simply have a cough that doesn’t go away.
Children and whooping cough
Whooping cough is dangerous in babies, especially those younger than 6 months. In severe cases, they may need to go to an emergency room.
If you think your child may have it, see your doctor immediately.
Children under 18 months with whooping cough should be watched at all times, because coughing fits can cause them to stop breathing. Young babies with severe cases may also need hospital care.
Whooping cough is dangerous in babies, especially those younger than 6 months, because it can prevent them from getting the oxygen they need. This can cause:
– Brain damage or bleeding in the brain
In adolescents and adults, whooping cough can cause pneumonia. A severe cough can also cause:
– Abdominal hernias
– Torn blood vessels
– Bruised ribs
– Problems controlling when you pee
– Trouble sleeping
Because whooping cough symptoms are very similar to those caused by a cold, flu, or bronchitis, it can be difficult to diagnose from the start. Your doctor may tell you that you have it from the sound of your cough, but tests can confirm this.
- Nose or throat culture. A simple sample of the area where the nose and throat meet can be tested for bacteria that causes whooping cough.
- Blood test. A high white blood cell count is a sign that your body is fighting an infection, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s whooping cough.
- Chest x-ray. This can show if you have inflammation or fluid in your lungs, which can be a sign of pneumonia.
If doctors diagnose whooping cough early, antibiotics can help reduce cough and other symptoms. They can also help prevent the infection from spreading to others.
Do not use over-the-counter cough medicines, cough suppressants, or expectorants (medicines that make you cough up mucus) to treat whooping cough. They do not work.
If your coughing fits are so severe that they keep you from drinking enough fluids, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Call your doctor immediately.
If a person with whooping cough sneezes, laughs, or coughs, small droplets containing the bacteria can fly through the air. You can get sick when you breathe in the drops.
When bacteria enter the airways, they attach to the tiny hairs on the lining of the lungs. The bacteria cause swelling and inflammation, leading to a long-lasting dry cough and other cold-like symptoms.
The primary method of prevention for pertussis is vaccination.
The DTaP vaccine can help protect children from whooping cough. Babies should receive one dose every two months for the first 6 months, another between 15 and 18 months, then one last time between the ages of 4 and 6.
Older children and adults need the Tdap vaccine and a booster every 10 years because the vaccine can weaken over time. The best age for children to receive it is between 11 and 12 years old. Adults who have never received the vaccine can receive it at any time. Pregnant women should receive a booster to help protect their newborn.
Another important key to prevention is protecting the people around you. If someone in your home has pertussis, be sure to cover your mouth or cough at the elbow to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Wash your hands often and consider putting on a mask when you are around others.