Whooping cough or pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection caused by the bacteria ‘bacterium Bordetella pertussis’ that leads to an uncontrollable cough. It is characterized by severe coughing spells, which sometimes end in a “whooping” sound when the person breathes in. Whooping cough is common in children and adults. The coughing spells can be so bad that it becomes hard to eat, drink or breathe.
Cough primarily affects children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations and adults whose immunity has faded. It begins with a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, red and watery eyes, mild fever, and a dry cough. After 2-3 weeks: the symptoms worsen. Thick mucus accumulates inside the airways, causing an uncontrollable cough. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks occur with a high-pitched “whoop” sound while inhaling the next breath of air.
• Wash your hands frequently and stay away from people with a bad cough. Ensure that children maintain simple hygiene.
• Get plenty of rest. A cool, quiet, and dark bedroom may help you relax and rest better. Adequate rest builds a healthy Immune system.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Water, Juice, and hot soups help replace fluids lost during mucus production and fever.
• Decaffeinated tea or warm beverages like soup and milk are soothing and help break up mucus.
• Eat smaller meals to avoid vomiting after coughing. Eat more frequently but smaller meals.
• Take a warm shower or bath which can temporarily help clear the lungs and ease breathing.
• Keep the home free of irritants that can trigger coughing spells, such as tobacco smoke and smoke from cooking. Use damp dusting cloths to avoid releasing dust Into the air while dusting.
• Prevent transmission. Cover your mouth when you cough and wash hands frequently; wear a mask when In a crowded area.
* Consult the doctor Immediately if prolonged coughing spells cause vomiting and a whooping sound.
The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. For children, Vaccinations start at 2 months and then again at 4 and 6 months. A booster vaccine is given at 15 – 18 months, and another booster at 4 to 6 years before school.
The Tdap vaccine is recommended for all adolescents, preferably at age 11 or 12 because immunity from the pertussis vaccine tends to wane after the age of 10 years. But anyone who hasn’t gotten it at age 11 or 12 can get a dose. If adults have never had the vaccine, they should definitely take it with the doctor’s consultation.