Whooping cough is a very contagious infection of the respiratory system and is caused by bacteria. Initially the deep cough is hard to distinguish from other infections like bronchitis or a cold or flu, but as it progresses, the high pitched intake of breath after the cough points toward whooping cough. This sharp, whistling intake of breath is the whoop of whooping cough. Vaccines are given to infants and young children to prevent this serious illness, but they still are susceptible to it until they have completed the five shot immunization series, around the age of five years old. The DPT shot that young children are given protects against diphtheria, pertussis ( the scientific name for whooping cough), and tetanus. Before this vaccine was introduced in the middle of the twentieth century whooping cough was a killer. Booster shots of pertussis vaccine are suggested at eleven years old and every ten years thereafter. Not only does getting vaccinated for whooping cough protect you, it also prevents you transmitting the disease to infants and small children you may come in contact with. When detected early whooping cough is treatable with antibiotics and rest, although sometimes hospitalization is required.
Whooping Cough Symptoms
In addition to the distinctive whistling whoop when a person inhales, there are other whooping cough symptoms to watch for. The disease begins with symptoms that look like a minor cold, such as sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose with a low fever. However, as these common symptoms clear up after about two weeks, the cough becomes stronger and more persistent.The dry hacking cough is the most well known of whooping cough symptoms. It is during this initial stage that whooping cough is the most contagious. After the period of cold like symptoms the severe coughing occurs. It is often worse in infants and can be brought on by eating, drinking, or even startling, occurring up to thirty times daily. Many people do not realize that these severe coughing bouts can cause hernias and other damage as well as pneumonia and exhaustion. The final stage of whooping cough which may last weeks up to a few months is a recovery period, where the person regains strength from the disease. However the whooping cough symptoms of a dry hacking cough and fatigue afterwards persist.
Whooping Cough Treatment
When whooping cough has been diagnosed by x-ray, blood tests or sputum cultures, antibiotic treatment can begin. Begun early enough this can shorten the duration of the infection. Often whooping cough treatment is not begun early because of the belief is that the patient only has a minor cold. Whooping cough lasts for about six to ten weeks in most people but can last considerably longer depending on when antibiotic treatment is started and whether or not the patient has had the Pertussis vaccination in the past. In addition to the patient being treated with antibiotics, people who have close contact frequently are given antibiotics as a preventative measure. The other aspect of whooping cough treatment is the supportive care they may receive. This can include hospitalization, IV fluids, oxygen and nursing care in general. Resting is of prime importance as well. The people who are most susceptible to whooping cough are those under four and over sixty, and they should be tested for the disease if they have cold symptoms that will not go away. Prompt whooping cough treatment makes a significant difference in the course and outcome of this disease. Prevention is the best treatment for whooping cough so you are encouraged to be vaccinated and to avoid exposure.