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      About Whooping cough

      Back to the top

      Whooping cough - commonly known as pertussis - is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract. The condition is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, which is spread through water droplets expelled into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Inhaling these particles may result in the infection of the lungs and airways.

      Symptoms of whooping cough begin to appear a week after exposure to the bacteria. Early symptoms (within 7-10 days) may be mild, resembling a common cold, but worsen as the infection progresses (1-2 weeks). The most common sign of whooping cough is an intense episode of coughing followed by a deep gasp for air that sounds like a “whoop”. Not every person who has been diagnosed with whooping cough, however, experiences the loud inhalation of air that the illness is named for.

      Other symptoms of whooping cough include:
      • Runny nose
      • Fever
      • Vomiting caused by intense coughing episodes
      • Exhaustion or fatigue caused by coughing episodes

      An infected person may remain infectious for up to 2 weeks after their symptoms have gone away.

      Whooping cough is a very common illness, most frequently found in children too young to be vaccinated against the infection. Adults and older teens who have had their immunity wear off may also be at risk of developing whooping cough. Recently, there were a reported 16 million cases of pertussis diagnosed worldwide in a single year, with nearly 50,000 cases reported every year in the United States.

      Adults and teenagers are usually able to recover from whooping cough without experiencing serious symptoms or complications. Babies under 2 months of age are at the greatest risk of severe infection, as they are too young to be vaccinated from pertussis. In infants and toddlers, whooping cough may result in cracked or fractured ribs, pneumonia, seizures, and death.

      Because pertussis can be deadly to young children, it is important that pregnant women receive vaccination from infection. The vaccine for pertussis is known as DTaP, which also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. Adults can receive a DTaP vaccination every ten years to prevent immunity from wearing off.

      Treatment Options

      If you notice the early signs and symptoms of whooping cough in a young infant (6 months or younger), seek medical attention right away. Whooping cough can be fatal to babies if left untreated. Infants and young children usually require hospitalization to make sure that the illness is effectively managed, and that they do not become dangerously dehydrated.

      Below are common treatment options for whooping cough. During your appointment, talk to your health care provider about the treatment plan that’s right for you.

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