Whooping cough, also called pertussis, starts like the ordinary cold, but after one to two weeks, those symptoms give way to intense bouts of coughing. This can make it hard to breathe and might even make the patient throw up.
Whooping cough can lead to complications that can be life-threatening, especially in babies. It may be milder in adults. Knowing what to look for can help you get diagnosed and start treatment sooner.
The bacteria that cause whooping cough lodge themselves in the small hair-like structures of your airways. You spread them when you cough and sneeze. You are contagious from the time the cold symptoms appear and can spread it for up to three weeks after the coughing spells begin. The illness usually lasts 6 to 12 weeks.
Everyone in your house should know how to stop the spread of germs. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Make sure to wash your hands afterward. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow instead of your hands.
Visit your doctor who could prescribe an antibiotic. If you start the medication in the first two weeks, they can help you feel better sooner. It can also prevent the spread. Anyone who has been exposed should see a doctor right away.
Stay home from work or school until the doctor says you can go back. Keep babies away from infected people. Whooping cough can be deadly on babies. Children younger than 3 months are most likely to have serious complications.
Children should be vaccinated early on with the DTaP vaccine — a combination vaccine that protects against three potentially life-threatening bacterial diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis — which protects infants against whooping cough and the other two diseases. Children should be vaccinated when they are 2 – 4 – 6 – 15 and 18 months old, as well as when they are 4 to 6 years.
Immunity wears off over time and cases of whooping cough among kids between 11 and 18 are on the rise. You can keep them safe with a booster shot called Tdap vaccine. This booster shot is approved for this age group as well as for adults. Schedule it when your child is 11 or 12.
Pregnant women also need to get a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant. Schedule the shot between weeks 27 and 36. It will keep mother and baby safe until the child is ready for their own whooping cough shot at 2 months. Remind anyone who cares for or spends time with your child that they need to get a booster shot.
If you had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, do not get another one. People with certain nervous system problems should avoid it, too. If you have a serious illness, the doctor may tell you to wait and will help you decide if it is okay for your child to get vaccinated.