What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough (pertussis) is still a very serious disease when it occurs in children under the age of one year old. But thanks to an effective vaccine and prevention against infection, it is now quite rare.
Whooping cough is a very serious disease when it occurs in children aged under one year.
Before the vaccination against whooping cough was introduced, three out of four children caught the disease and some died every year. Today only a few get whooping cough.
|What causes whooping cough?
Whooping cough is caused by a bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) and is one of the most contagious bacterial infections.
If one child in a group of siblings gets it, the other children are extremely likely to become infected if they have not already had the disease or been vaccinated.
This also includes babies. Although infants who are breastfed are usually protected against most common childhood infections, they receive no protection against whooping cough. This is why early vaccination is recommended.
Children with a cold or cough should be kept away from non-vaccinated children as well as women in labour and newborn babies.
|How is whooping cough contracted?
The infection is transferred through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs. Anyone who has not been vaccinated is highly likely to contract the disease just by spending time in the same room as an infected person.
Anyone who has been vaccinated or has suffered from whooping cough will have a degree of immunity to the disease. They may contract a mild case some years later but this will not develop into a full-blown attack.
The incubation period - the time between contracting the infection and the appearance of the main symptoms - can vary from 5 to 15 days or even longer.
Whooping cough is infectious from the first sneezes and throughout the course of the disease, which can last for up to eight weeks. This is a much longer period than with other children's diseases.
|What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
This disease begins with a cold and a mild cough. After that, the typical coughing bouts set in. The coughing continues until no air is left in the lungs. After this comes a deep intake of breath that produces a heaving, 'whooping' sound when the air passes the larynx (windpipe) that gives rise to the name of the disease.
The patient will eventually cough up some phlegm and these attacks may well be followed by vomiting. The child's temperature is likely to remain normal.
A bout of whooping cough can be very distressing for both the child and the parents who feel unable to help.
Coughing attacks may occur up to 40 times a day and the disease can last for up to eight weeks.
|How does the doctor make the diagnosis?
The diagnosis is usually made from the symptoms and the history of contact with a person suffering from whooping cough.
|Whooping Cough Complications
While whooping cough is very unpleasant, there may also be other complications, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections. These complications may cause a high temperature, and change the course of the disease.
|How is whooping cough treated?
Most cases of whooping cough require no specific treatment. Infants and small children with other conditions such as asthma require constant monitoring which, at least for a while, is best to seek treatment immediately.
|How does one prevent the infection?
Kids are always reminded to keep away from other kids that are suffering from whooping cough. The kids should be using different cups and daily things and always be kept as far away as possible from others.
If whooping cough occurs at home, all special measures are necessary and remembered.