It’s that time of year again when we, as healthcare providers and parents, worry about our children getting whooping cough. This illness is caused by a bacteria called bordetella pertussis, which attacks the lining of the breathing passages, producing severe inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
Pertussis usually starts off like a common cold/cough for 1-2 weeks. The cough is usually characterized as “dry.” Most children do not have an associated high fever. The cough gradually gets worse, and during this phase (which can last two weeks or more), the child often has coughing “fits/spells” where he/she can become short of breath and even look bluish around the mouth. Tearing and vomiting mucus can also be associated with the coughing spells.
Although infants are most at risk, children and adults can be affected. The bacteria is spread through respiratory droplets/secretions, and those most at risk of contracting the disease are household contacts.
If you suspect your child has pertussis, a nasal swab can be done at our office. Its is important to remember that most cases of coughing are not caused by pertussis, but if you are worried about your child’s cough, it is best to have it checked out by your doctor.
Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics, although treatment is to stop the patient from being contagious. Antibiotics generally do not alleviate the cough, and symptoms may take another few weeks to resolve. Other remedies to soothe the individual include rest, fluids, and a cool-mist humidifier.
There is no absolute way to prevent the spread of pertussis, although the most effective measure is to make sure your child is up to date on his DTaP/TdaP “tetanus and pertussis” boosters.
If you have further questions or concerns, please check out the references below or make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.