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Ask The Expert


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What is Whooping Cough?
 

A Whooping Cough, also known as Pertussis, which is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Most people have a severe hacking cough that is followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a "whoop."
Before a vaccine was produced, Whooping Cough was regarded as a childhood disease. Now Whooping Cough mostly affects children that are too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations or teenagers and adults whose immune system is weak.

A Whooping Cough can cause deaths in infants, but this is rare and is the reason it is so important for pregnant women and people who are in close contact with an infant to get vaccinated against Whooping Cough.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough
 

When you become diagnosed with whooping cough, it takes about ten days for the symptoms to appear. The symptoms are normally not bad at first and almost the same as those experienced with the typical flu.
Symptoms include:

  • When you have a runny nose
  • If you have nasal congestion
  • If you have red, watery eyes
  • If you have a high fever
  • When you cough often

The signs and symptoms get worse after a week or two. Thick mucus builds up inside the airways, causing unbearable coughing. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:

  • Make you feel as if you want to vomit
  • Having a swollen, red or blue face
  • Cause extreme fatigue
  • End with a high-pitched "whoop" sound during the next breath of air

Sometimes, a continuous hacking cough is the only sign that a teenager or adult has whooping cough. Infants with this condition may also not cough at all. Instead, may struggle in such a way that they bring on asphyxiation; in these cases, death may occur.

One should call your doctor if your cough causes you or your child to:

  • Vomit a lot
  • If your face turns red or blue
  • If you are struggling to breathe
  • If you inhale with a whooping sound

 

Causes of a Whooping Cough
 

Bacteria usually cause Whooping Cough. When an infected person, coughs or sneezes, droplets of germs are sprayed out into the air, and people that are around may inhale this bacteria into their lungs.

Diagnosis for a Whooping Cough
 

Diagnosing Whooping Cough can be difficult especially in it's in its early stages because it will often resemble other common respiratory illnesses such as a cold, the flu or bronchitis.

Doctors can sometimes diagnose Whooping Cough by asking you about your symptoms and listening to your cough. Certain tests will have to be done to confirm the diagnosis. Such tests may include:

  • A nose or throat culture and test: Your doctor will take a sample from the area, where the nose and the throat meet using a swab. This sample will then be checked to see if there is evidence of Whooping Cough bacteria.
  • Blood tests:  A blood test will need to be done and then taken to a laboratory to analyze the white blood cells count. This is done because our white blood cells help the body fight off infections. A high blood cell count indicates that there is an infection of inflammation.
  • A chest X-ray: Your doctor may have an X-ray done to check if there is evidence of inflammation or fluid in the lungs, this may occur when Pneumonia complicates Whooping Cough and other respiratory infections.

 

Treatments for Whooping Cough
 

When an infant has Whooping Cough they should be admitted to hospital because the infection is more dangerous in this age group. Intravenous fluids will have to be given if your child cannot keep down fluids.

Medications
 

Antibiotics are mainly taken to fight off the bacteria that is in your body. Family members can also be given antibiotics to help prevent the bacteria from spreading to others.
There are not many other treatment options available to relieve Whooping Cough. Over-the-counter medications may be helpful, but this medication often does not provide much relieve and often has very little effect.

 
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