Since the 1980s, the number of people who have contracted whooping cough has risen steadily, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people in the
What is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough (or Pertussis) is named after the “whoop” sound children make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell. Caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, whooping cough is an infection of the respiratory system. The bacteria get into the lining of the breathing passages, causing inflammation and narrowing of airways. Whooping cough is highly contagious and spread through close contact.
Whooping cough usually starts with cold- or flu-like symptoms—runny nose, sneezing and mild cough—which can last up to two weeks and are followed by increasingly severe coughing spells. Because its symptoms mimic those of a cold, whooping cough is difficult to diagnose. Keep an eye out for these telltale symptoms:
Lips and nails may turn blue from lack of oxygen
Coughs produce thick mucus
Exhaustion, especially after coughing fits
Who Gets It?
Whooping cough can occur at any age, but infants and young children are most susceptible. Though seldom serious in adults, whooping cough can carry life-threatening consequences for young infants, especially those who haven’t been immunized against the disease. Pneumonia is the most common complication and cause of infantile-pertussis-related deaths. Other whooping cough-related complications include:
Encephalopathy (swelling of the brain)
Severe ear infections
Anorexia (severe restriction of food intake)
Dehydration (marked by lack of urine production)
What Can You Do?
While there is no lifelong protection against whooping cough, immunization is the best preventive measure for your child. The vaccine to protect your child against whooping cough is the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTap) vaccine. It should be administered in five doses, beginning at two months of age. (Has your child received her latest vaccines? Click here to view the American
If you think your child may have whooping cough, contact your pediatrician immediately. The disease is treated with antibiotics. Until your child has taken all of the prescribed medication, it’s best to keep her away from others, especially small infants and other children. Don’t worry: Early detection and treatment of whooping cough rarely results in anything but a full recovery.
For more on whooping cough, check out these resources:
"http://www.pertussis.com/" target=new>National Association of Pediatric Nurses Practitioners’ whooping cough Web site
"http://www.parenthood.com/article-topics/article-topics.php?Article_ID=2666">Winter Warning About Whooping Cough