Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough
If your child experiences uncontrollable coughing that makes it difficult for them to breathe, talk to your doctor about whooping cough. Thousands of people yearly become ill with whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, and some are hospitalized. This highly contagious illness can be very dangerous, and even deadly, in young infants. Thankfully, vaccines have helped to reduce the spread of whooping cough, although current vaccines are not 100% effective against this illness. If your child contracts this bacterial respiratory infection he or she will most likely be treated with antibiotics. To protect your children against whooping cough, talk to your doctor about vaccination

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    Whooping cough (pertussis) may cause other illnesses -- especially in babies less than a year old because they haven’t been completely immunized. Half of the babies who get pertussis end up in the hospital. About 25% of them will get pneumonia and another 60% of them will get apnea, where they stop breathing for a short period of time. About 1% of these babies have seizures, and a few babies may acquire infections of the brain tissue caused by pertussis bacteria. Only 1% of babies that go into the hospital with pertussis actually die.
     
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    The namesake cough of whooping cough aids in diagnosis; sometimes the only diagnostic tool involves your doctor asking questions. Your doctor may also take a nose or throat culture. If you have been sick for several weeks, the culture may return negative. The doctor may test for an elevated white-cell count or take a chest x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

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    The initial symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a cold: runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, low-grade fever, and a cough. The symptoms of whooping cough last for approximately 6 to 10 weeks.

    After a period of 7 to 14 days, the symptoms get worse: thick mucus; a hacking, productive cough, which is followed by the characteristic "whoop" of inhaled breath. The coughing may induce young children to vomit, and inability to intake breath may cause the skin to turn blue.

    The coughing fits subside after several weeks, but children may cough for weeks to months later.

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    Whooping cough is not inheritable. It is a contagious infection caused by a bacterial infection in the respiratory tract. People contract the infection by inhaling bacteria in droplets of moisture, which are expelled after an infected person either coughs or sneezes.

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    Your risk for catching whooping cough increases when you are around someone with the illness. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria are expelled into the air in airborne droplets of moisture. When you breathe these in, you may become infected.

    Vaccines are available, but children under six months have not received a full series of vaccinations are at a higher risk. Also people who were vaccinated as children are also at a higher risk because the vaccine becomes ineffective over time.

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    Whooping cough is caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria infect the respiratory tract and allow germs to multiply. Mucus accumulation in the bronchial tubes leads to coughing. The characteristic "whoop" cough is due to inflammation of the airways, also caused by the bacteria. When you try to breathe in after a coughing fit, the narrowed bronchi produce the high-pitched "whooping" cough.

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    Whooping cough can be cured only by taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause the disease and may include erythromycin, clarithromycin, or azithromycin. A doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in infants and albuterol to minimize coughing. Over-the-counter cough medications are ineffective in curing whooping cough.

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    When caring for someone with whooping cough, it is important to make sure that they follow their doctor's advice for treatment. You should also help them get extra rest. Encourage them to eat small meals and drink lots of fluids. You may also set up a vaporizer in the room where they are resting. Keeping the home free from irritants, such as smoke, will minimize coughing spells.

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    A Pediatrics, answered on behalf of
    A child who has whooping cough (pertussis) will need plenty of fluids to drink and specific antibiotics. Early diagnosis of pertussis (whooping cough) in both children and adults is important because the illness can be shortened by specific medications. Young infants with pertussis will usually require hospital admission, often in a pediatric intensive care unit. 

    In addition to making sure their child gets the proper care, parents should be vigilant about making sure their child does not spread it to other children. It is also important that doctors do a better job of recognizing and treating pertussis and that everyone (children, adolescents and adults) gets vaccinated.
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    There are no over-the-counter medications that are helpful in treating whooping cough. The only treatment is with antibiotics, which are prescribed by a doctor. Herbal and homeopathic remedies do not cure this illness but may help ease symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you are treating your whooping cough with herbal or homopathic remedies. Over-the-counter cough suppressants have no effect and should not be used.