Should You Be Concerned About Whooping Cough?

There's a common misconception that whooping cough has gone the way of polio and smallpox. Basically eradicated, at least in the US. Unfortunately, that's far from true-- in 2012, there were an estimated 48,000 cases in the United States alone. So what is exactly is whooping cough, and what can you do to keep you and your family safe?

What is whooping cough?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a respiratory illness caused by a bacterial infection. Coughing fits can last for minutes, resulting in a suffocating feeling and the characteristic whooping noise as the sufferer gasps for air between coughs.

The illness generally starts out with symptoms that closely mimic a common cold. You may experience a sore throat, runny nose, dry cough, and a low-grade fever. After a week, the cough worsens and becomes wet. Many times coughing spells can cause vomiting and redness in the face. A thick, clear mucus may coat the throat and be expelled when coughing.

Symptoms in infants are generally the same as in adults. You may notice your baby struggle to breathe between coughing episodes, and their skin may turn blue. Whooping cough tends to be more dangerous for infants than adults due to the risk of complications such as pneumonia. Lack of oxygen can cause seizures and brain damage.

Is whooping cough treatable?

Treatment for whooping cough depends on when the illness is diagnosed, as well as the age of the patient. Antibiotics can cut down on the length and severity of an infection if prescribed early. However, because whooping cough may initially be misdiagnosed as a cold, antibiotics are not always administered early enough to help with the symptoms-- they may, however, reduce the risk of infecting others.

For adults, whooping cough is frequently treated at home with rest and fluids. In infants and sometimes children, the illness can require a stay in the hospital to make sure airways are clear. Particularly with infants, fluids may need to be given through an IV.

How can you protect your child?

Because whooping cough can be so difficult to treat, the best way to protect your child is through prevention. The DTaP vaccination protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. It's recommended that infants receive the shot at two months, four months, six months, between 15 and 18 months, and again between the ages of four and six. Adults ages 19-64 should receive a DTaP booster once-- followed by a diphtheria and tetanus vaccine every ten years after. A DTaP booster may be required again after the age of 65.

Whooping cough is a serious-- but preventable-- illness. Although it's less common now than in the past, it is still very much a threat to infants in particular. To learn more, contact a company like Entira Family Clinics with any questions or concerns you have,