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Whooping Cough  (Pertussis)

Coughing is your body’s way of fighting off the presence of fluids, micro organisms and foreign particles which block your air ways/ respiratory passages. It may be persistent and worrisome depending on the symptoms it follows: maybe dry or with the presence of mucus, accompanied by chest pain, worse by night than in the day time etc. It is however necessary to know what type of cough it is. This is why we’ll be talking about whooping cough.

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that gets into your throat and nose, it is highly contagious and severe in infants than in adults.

At the early stages of whooping cough or pertussis, it resembles the symptoms of an average cold: mild coughing bouts, sore throat, red or watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose and a slight fever. So, it isn’t detected easily within the first 6 days except if tested in a lab.

However, after about 7-10 days it becomes contagious and the coughing bouts become persistent especially at night. It is dry and sometimes followed by vomiting. The coughing bouts usually lasts up to a minute and may end with a “whoop” sound as the sick child or adult tries to gasp for breadth.

The strain from the coughing may cause the face to turn red or purple in adults. In infants however, the skin may turn dusky blue due to the absence of enough oxygen getting into the body and as they gasp for breadth they make the whoop sound. Note that the child may not cough and even if he/she does it may not be easily noticed.

Whooping cough is very dangerous and at a high risk for children under 6 months. It may cause them to be hospitalised. Children under 18 months have to be under strict watch as the coughing can make them stop breathing.

It is advisable that if you think your child is experiencing any of the symptoms of whooping cough, please see your doctor.

If diagnosed early on, the symptoms can be controlled by antibiotics. Cough suppressants, expectorant (cough medicines which help you cough out mucus) are not much help for whooping cough as it is usually dry so it is important to see your Doctor.

When a cough occurs, there is a forceful release of bacteria and viruses and these come out in tiny droplets which can easily be relocated to another person. In other words, when a person with whooping cough laughs, sneezes or coughs small droplets of the bacteria can easily be spread and if you breathe in these droplets you may fall sick. Whooping cough can cause anyone at any age to fall sick even if you have been vaccinated before or if you have had whooping cough before as the vaccination wears off after a few years.

Whooping cough may last from 3 to 6 weeks. After 3 weeks it is considered not contagious however. If you have symptoms of whooping cough, periods of breathlessness or shallow breathing (generally, breathing difficulties), or a cough that has lasted up to 3 weeks and is severe please visit your doctor.

To prevent the spread of whooping cough, ensure to cover your mouth or nose with a handkerchief when sneezing or coughing. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly. Most importantly, don’t get too close to nurseries for babies or close to babies as it is more infectious to them till after 48 hours from the use of antibiotics.

Most private hospitals do not possess the facilities to treat whooping cough so try going to a government or federal hospital.

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