Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a serious,
contagious (others can easily get the disease), bacterial infection
that affects the respiratory system causing severe coughing attacks.
The Bordetella pertussis bacteria are the cause of the infection.
The bacteria are spread from person to person by direct contact or
airborne transmission (infected tiny droplets spread through the air
by breathing or coughing). Children under age 2 are more commonly
affected although anyone can get the infection. There is a vaccine
available as part of the DtaP immunization. Risk increases to those
who are not immunized and during late winter.
Symptoms may include:
• Coughing in which the cough occurs as an attack (2-3 coughs
without inhaling) and has a distinctive sound; it is high pitched
and often ends with an inhaling "whoop"
• Cough may be productive (produces mucous) or non-productive
• Runny nose
• Fever, usually 102°F or lower
• Choking spells following coughing attacks. This is more common in
• Vomiting following a coughing attack
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Diagnose pertussis by asking about symptoms, doing a physical
exam, laboratory blood tests, and X-rays
• Prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the infection. Young
children need to be watched carefully since their coughs may lead to
periods of apnea (breathing stops)
• More severe cases may require hospitalization
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• Give the antibiotic as prescribed by your physician. Be certain
you give it all, even after symptoms improve
• Use a cool-mist humidifier to help loosen the secretions
• Provide an environment conducive to rest
• Encourage extra fluids to avoid dehydration
• Avoid contact with others to prevent spreading the infection
• Have your child vaccinated against whooping cough
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
• Recovery usually takes several weeks (6-12), with a lingering
cough after the infection has cleared up.
• Possible complications include pneumonia, ear infections,
breathing difficulties, apnea, seizures or convulsions.
CALL 1061 OR SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
If your child has symptoms of whooping cough, your child has a
seizure, periods of apnea, symptoms persist or get worse.