What is whooping cough and why should you know more about it, especially if you have kids? Also known as pertussis, over 20,000 Australians contracted this highly contagious infection in 2016. What causes whooping cough is the bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. It irritates the airway, making it difficult for the people who have it to breathe. It also makes them sound like they’re gasping for air during cough spasms thus the name “whooping” cough.
From its description alone, it’s easy to picture the discomfort this infection brings to both adult and children sufferers. Individuals with existing respiratory problems, pregnant women, and infants below six months are all at risk of being infected. That’s why it’s important to learn about its prevention and proper treatment.
Treating Whooping Cough
Patients with whooping cough are required to take antibiotics for about 5 to 10 days. Completing the antibiotic therapy alleviates the symptoms and stops the cough from being contagious. Keep in mind that if the patient is just 2 or 3 days into taking antibiotics, the virus is still infectious so it’s still not advisable to be in close proximity to the patient.
For children and infants below six months, the condition would be harder to bear. It’s important to not expose them to anything that might induce coughing such as cigarette smoke or dusty environments. Eating would also be a challenge. Any food with too much flavour should be avoided and smaller portions are preferable to bigger meals. Keeping patients hydrated is very important and with kids, this is especially challenging. Giving them small sips of water frequently would be helpful.
Symptoms and tests
At the onset of the infection, a patient would have a runny nose, dry cough, experience fatigue and perhaps have a slight fever. However, after a week or so, the cough worsens. A distinct “whoop” can be heard in the cough spasms of those who weren’t vaccinated. It is during this time that you have to go to a doctor to get tested and receive treatment right away.
One problem is that sometimes, the bacteria is not detected in the blood or the mucus on tests even after the patient has had a cough for over 20 days. At this point, the patient’s cooperation becomes crucial in getting an accurate diagnosis. One way doctors can examine further is by having the patient take a video of themselves during a coughing spasm. This allows the doctors to hear how the cough sounds like and prescribe proper medication.
Whooping cough can cause pauses in breathing while sleeping for infants below 24 months. Extreme cases can lead to brain damage because an infant patient could experience a lack of oxygen in the blood. If left untreated, pertussis in adults, children, and infants could lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is another serious and contagious disease that can be fatal.
There were also instances where young children and adults fractured their ribs due to extreme coughing. This can go undetected for months and as a result, some patients have difficulty controlling their bladder. In some cases, it caused significant weight loss in patients.
Prevent it From Spreading
The nature of the disease requires fast action, but it’s much better to prevent it. Couples who are expecting should be vaccinated before the child is born. In fact, women who are in their third trimester are encouraged to get vaccinated. Some might even receive theirs for free depending on the state. This is important because once the mother is immunised, it would give initial protection to the newborn that is good for a few weeks.
As soon as the infant is old enough to receive vaccinations, it should be a priority to complete it. In addition, family members like siblings and grandparents who would be staying with the newborn are urged to be vaccinated before the child is born so the risk of infecting the child with pertussis or any other disease will be lessened.
Since kids are the most vulnerable, kindergarteners who get infected are encouraged to not attend school until they have completed treatment. Schools have seen outbreaks in the past and are well aware why some of the students won’t be able to go to school. Now if your child has not contracted the infection, this is the right time to check if their vaccinations are updated.
It has been stressed many times how important it is to get vaccinated to prevent contracting whooping cough. In fact, there’s even an initiative to make it easier for everyone to get immunisation. The local pharmacy Greg Keily Chemist participates in this project. A trusted institution for over 40 years, the clinic has a knowledgeable staff and a convenient location. They are open daily from 7 am to 9 pm.