What is whooping cough?

Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a very contagious bacterial disease. It is transmitted through tiny drops of fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth when they cough or sneeze. The bacteria infects the respiratory system, causing severe coughing spells within a week or two that sometimes sound like a “whoop” when breathing in. After two to four weeks, the infected person is seized with coughing fits. This is not always so, though. There have been cases where infants look as though they’re gasping for breath with red faces or stop breathing for a few minutes. Adults and teens have also had long spells of coughing without the whoop sounds.

What are the signs you need to look for in your child?

Whooping cough signs include runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and low-grade fever. Those most at risk include children in the womb whose parents are not vaccinated against the disease and babies and toddlers who still have developing immune systems. If your child gets whooping cough, they should be taken to the doctor immediately. The child will be given antibiotics to treat the infection and should be healed within two weeks. It is also wise that parents reduce the cough triggers. A humidifier often helps, as does keeping the child calm. In extreme cases with infants, they will need hospitalization.

How to Reduce Your Family’s Risk of Whooping Cough

To prevent against whooping cough, children usually get the pertussis vaccine during their childhood immunizations, as part of the DTaP immunization. Children should also get the booster version of the vaccine, Tdap, between the ages of 11 and 12 (i.e. 6th grade), to reinforce their immunity against whooping cough. Parents who did not get either shot as children should get the Tdap vaccine before they get pregnant. For more information or to get a vaccination, please schedule a doctor’s appointment.