Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Symptoms, Treatments, and How to Prevent It…

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a disease that affects the lungs. Pertussis bacteria are spread from person to person through droplets produced during coughing or sneezing. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer. Pertussis can be very serious, especially in infants. While many people assume that whooping cough is a disease that no longer exists, it is actually more common in the US than we would like to admit. Pediatricians have seen an increase in the number of whooping cough cases over the last couple of decades.

Symptoms – Whooping Cough My Look Like a Cold

The first symptoms of pertussis are similar to a cold… sneezing, a runny nose, possibly a low-grade fever, and a cough. After one or two weeks, the cough becomes severe. Children and newborns are more likely to display severe symptoms. They may vomit or show severe fatigue after coughing. While any of us can develop whooping cough infants are particularly at risk for life-threatening complications. It is important to have your family vaccinated.

Vaccines Can Protect Against Whooping Cough

While newborns are too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough, you should make sure that the rest of your family is fully vaccinated. There are two pertussis vaccines… DTaP and Tdap. Both vaccines are given in combination with tetanus and diphtheria. Your age determines which vaccine you should receive and how many doses you need. The DTaP vaccine will protect against whooping cough and will be administered at 2, 4 and 6 months old, again at 15 to 18 months, and again at 6 years for a total of 5 doses. Pregnant women should get Tdap during the third trimester of pregnancy. If Tdap wasn’t given during pregnancy, the new mother should get Tdap right after delivery. All adults should get a Tdap booster shot which is recommended by the CDC if they are going to be in contact with a newborn. Even if you’ve had whooping cough before or received a DTaP vaccine during childhood, adults should be vaccinated with Tdap if they have not been before.

Turn to a Pediatrician Immediately

If you suspect that your child might have whooping cough, you must call your pediatrician right away. Pertussis in infants is often severe, and infants are more likely than older children or adults to develop complications. The most common complication of pertussis is bacterial pneumonia. Rare complications include seizures, inflammation of the brain, and death. If antibiotics are given in the early stages they are more effective.

Manage the Symptoms

Using a clean, cool mist vaporizer to help loosen mucus and soothe the cough. Practicing good hand-washing. Encouraging your child to drink plenty of fluids, including water, juices, and soups, and eating fruits to prevent dehydration (lack of fluids). Report any signs of dehydration to your doctor immediately.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include…

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling tired
  • A dry mouth, lips, and eyes
  • Peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day

If you want to fully protect your child against many dangerous communicable diseases, one of the best ways is through vaccinations. Make sure your child is up to date on all their vaccines.

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About Pediatrics of Florence

We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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