Whooping Cough Symptoms

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an infection of the respiratory system, characterized by the "whooping" sound that is made when an infected child is breathing in.

Pertussis starts out as a irritating cough you can't get rid of, and develops into coughing spells that can last for several minutes. Redness of the face, gasping for breath while coughing, and vomiting are all signs that your child may have whooping cough. Though the sporadic coughing is painful, a child will usually feel fine in between the coughing fits. Because of this, many parents do not realize that their child has pertussis and needs to be seen by a physician.

Whooping Cough Causes

A bacteria called Bordetella pertussis (B pertussis) is the source of the whooping cough. If left untreated, hospitalization may become necessary. Whooping cough can be a very serious illness and a physician's care is recommended.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough

The first signs of pertussis are a runny nose, sneezing, mild coughing and a low-grade fever, much like the common cold. After several weeks pass, these symptoms will develop into severe coughing fits. Children with pertussis under the age of five often have a higher chance of developing pneumonia as well.

Is the Whooping Cough Contagious?

Whooping cough is highly contagious. Your child can get whooping cough through airborne molecules from an infected child's coughing, laughing or sneezing, or through physical contact.

Pertussis is most contagious for up to two weeks after the cough begins, however antibiotics can shorten that period to five days after the first dose. It is recommended that anyone who has not been vaccinated for B pertussis and comes into close or regular contact with a person who has whooping cough, receive antibiotics to prevent the disease from spreading.

Whooping Cough Treatment

A physician may check a child's mucus and test it for the pertussis bacteria, and also send it out to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. An X-ray or blood test may also be necessary. If the test is positive, your child will be started on antibiotics until the symptoms are gone. It can take anywhere from two weeks to two months for your child to return to normal after having pertussis, depending on the severity of the condition.

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