Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping Cough, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by bordetella pertussis bacteria. The whooping cough can affect children of all ages, but is most commonly found among children under the age of one.

Symptoms of Pertussis
During the first week or two of the infection, your child may display non-descript symptoms such as a runny nose, low-grade fever and a cough. Afterwards, the coughing gets worse. The coughing turns into attacks, which are accompanied by blotchiness in the faces. Sometimes, you hear a sound at end of an attack, which sounds like a ‘whoop’.

There may be other symptoms which include vomiting, excessive salivation and tearing. A month after the infection there is generally a gradual increase in the severity and number of coughing attacks, which may last a number of months.

Diagnosis of Pertussis
In most cases, a diagnosis is made based on the symptoms and a culture taken from the nasal cavity. Sometimes, a doctor will order blood tests or other tests to check for the existence of PCR. The culture is the most exact method of diagnosis.

Treatment of Pertussis
Treatment includes: monitoring your child’s condition, providing oxygen, maintaining a liquid diet if needed and antibiotics. The antibiotics administered are, for the most part erythromycin or azithromycin, given over a period of five days to shorten the time span of the disease. Treatment should be continued even after improvement. It should be noted that even following antibiotic treatment, your child will most likely continue coughing (for a few weeks!) due to the damage done to the airways.

The whole family should be given antibiotic treatment, even if they aren’t exhibiting any symptoms – this infection is highly contagious.

Isolation
The infection is transmitted through the air – by coughing and sneezing. The disease is contagious up until the last five days of the antibiotic treatment. In order to prevent spreading the disease, any child with whooping cough who is hospitalized is isolated from other patients. The best way to prevent the spread of the disease is to make sure to wash your hands with soap after you come in contact with your child.