Whooping cough is a disease also known as pertussis.
It causes long bouts of coughing and choking, which can result in breathing. In serious cases, a child may turn blue from lack of oxygen, or vomit after a particularly bad coughing spell. It is the combination of coughing spells and gasping for air that causes the “whoop” noise.
However, while it is known as whooping cough, not all children get the actual “whoop”. The disease can last up to three months, and is most dangerous in babies under one year.
What causes Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is spread the same way that a bacterial infection is spread; either through direct contact or breathing air that is infected. Fortunately, most children start receiving DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccines beginning at 2 months of age.
There are five injections in the series and will be spread out from age 2 months to age 4 or 6 years. After each injection, the chances of contracting either of these diseases is decreased.
What are the symptoms of Whooping Cough?
Interestingly, whooping cough happens in stages, with symptoms generally starting off quite mild, gradually getting worse before they get better.
Most cases of whooping cough begin with cold or flu symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough and sneezing. These symptoms can last for a couple of weeks before the cough gets bad.
A child with whooping cough will have lengthy coughing spells and trouble breathing afterwards. There may be mucus and the cough will worsen at night.
Early symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Irritating cough
- Raised temperature
- Runny nose
Middle stage symptoms include:
- Intense coughing, at least 12 times a day, that brings up phlegm
- Vomiting after a series of coughing
- A red face after coughing
- Exhaustion from coughing
- A cough that lasts more than one minute
How is whooping cough treated?
Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics, that are usually most effective when administered in the early stages of the illness. However, no matter the stage, antibiotics are a great way to shorten the illness and to stop the spread of the infection.
Some children suffering from whooping cough need to be treated in a hospital. Babies and younger children are more likely to be hospitalised because they're at greater risk for problems like pneumonia.
Remember mums, if something seems off, contact a doctor. Better safe than sorry, always.