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Whooping Cough (Pertussis) and Your Child

Updated on April 15, 2013

What exactly is Whooping Cough?

Whooping Cough (also known as Pertussis), is a serious respiratory system infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella Pertussis. It mainly but is not limited to infants six months and younger and children ranging from the age of eleven to eighteen whose immunity starts to fade. Whooping Cough can cause a child to cough rapidly in a series of coughing fits that can last for weeks, causing a loss of air in the lungs until your forced to inhale resulting in a "whooping" like sound. For babies, whose systems are still developing the cough may be life threatening. It can cause the child to also have difficulty eating and drinking. What first might appear as a common cold can spiral to a highly contagious infection lasting up to 10 weeks or more. Pertussis is severely contagious and can result in hospitalization. Before the vaccine, Whooping Cough was one of the most common childhood diseases and a major cause of childhood deaths in the United States.

Know the Symptoms

Often in the beginning stages it goes un-noticed, the symptoms just appearing as a common cold. Starting off as a cold with congestion, runny nose, occasional coughing, a low-grade fever and Apnea (a breathing pause). Overtime it damages the Cilia (tiny hairs that protect your respiratory tract) causing inflammation or swelling, resulting in prolonged coughing and a difficulty to catch your breath. Other symptoms can include vomiting and extreme tiredness.

How can i prevent Pertussis?

The best way to prevent is to be Vaccinated! The most used Vaccine in the United States is the TDaP, a combination of vaccinations also protecting from Diphtheria and Tetanus. A booster shot can also be given to teens and adults. For complete protection for a baby a maximum of 5 shots can be given at the ages of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and between the ages of 4 to 6. It is also recommended that expecting mothers and fathers not previously vaccinated should get one dose of the TDaP vaccine. It is advised that all household members avoid being near someone with Pertussis to help prevent the spread of it to others.


Antibiotics such as Erythromycin or similar can be taken for up to 2 weeks. It is important to follow the schedule and directions to prevent a relapse. Other ways to help that you can do at home:

  • Keep your household free from smoke, dust or chemical fumes that can trigger coughing.

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to help soothe the respiratory system.

  • Keep Hydrated! If any signs of hydration (Dry mouth, excessive sleepiness, headaches, dizziness, thirst or decrease in wet diapers/urination) If any of these occur contact your Doctor as soon as possible!

  • Be Hygienic, wash hands frequently.

  • Eat smaller meal portions throughout the day to help avoid vomiting.

If Hospitalization occurs breathing will be monitored and oxygen may be required. If its too difficult to breathe suctioning of the secretions will be administered to help keep passages clear. If dehydrated an I.V. will be given to the child to help keep them hydrated.

For more Information on Pertusis check out the following website:


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