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Whooping Cough - Facts for Parents

Updated on December 8, 2014

Whooping Cough Epidemic

T he number of reported cases of whooping cough in 2012 in the United States are 44 percent higher than the cases in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

New York, Washington State and more than a dozen other U.S. states are reporting three times the number of new cases for the same time last year. This is scary news for all parents and caregivers.

photo by Robert Couse-Baker @flickr

According to the World English Dictionary:

EPIDEMIC: (esp of a disease) attacking or affecting many persons simultaneously in a community or area

What is Whooping Cough?

  • Whooping Cough is a bacterial infection called Pertussis.
  • It is a highly contagious disease that can strike at any age but one third of cases occur in children younger than 10 years, and one third occur in adolescents 11 to 18 years of age.
  • Whooping Cough causes violent coughing that makes a "whooping" noise when the patient tries to take a breath.

Pertussis is a Bacterial Infection

Infectious bacteria can make you ill. They reproduce quickly in your body. Many give off chemicals called toxins, which can damage tissue and make you sick.

How is Whooping Cough Spread?

  • When an infected person sneezes or coughs, small droplets containing the bacteria move through the air.
  • Anyone breathing in the infected droplets is at risk for developing whooping cough.

A person with a bacterial infection like whooping cough can spread the infection by coughing and/or sneezing.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough (Pertussis) - 3 Stages

There are three main stages of whooping cough that take place over approximately 6 to 10 weeks.

  1. Stage One:

    Mild cold symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, cough and sometimes a slight fever.

    Symptoms develop about a week after exposure to the bacteria.

  2. Stage Two: (10 to 12 days later)

    Typical "whooping" sound after coughing about five times very forcefully,

    then breathing will be normal, but another coughing fit follows shortly thereafter.

    The whoop noise is rare in patients under 6 months of age and in adults.

    This often causes large amounts of thick mucus and often vomiting and choking .

  3. Stage Three:

    Gradual return to good health.

    The infection usually lasts 6 weeks.

WHOOP = a prolonged, high-pitched, deeply indrawn breath.

How Whooping Cough Progresses

Pertussis Timeline
Pertussis Timeline

Chart from the Center for Disease Control - Pertussis


Your doctor will diagnose whooping cough by doing a physical exam. The doctor will take into consideration whether the patient has been exposed to pertussis and by running laboratory and blood tests.

Early symptoms include runny nose, mild cough and low-grade fever.

In infants, there may be apnea which is a pause in their breathing making pertussis most dangerous for babies.

Pertussis usually is not contagious after the third week of the infection.

What do your think?

There are some heated debates going on about whether to get immunizations for different diseases - what is your opinion?

Treatment for Whooping Cough

Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics when whooping cough is the diagnosis. There are things to remember when treatment takes place at home.

  1. Give the patient antibiotics exactly as your doctor has prescribed.
  2. Vaporizers with a cool mist will help loosen secretions and soothe the cough.
  3. Wash your hands frequently and each time you are working with the patient.
  4. To prevent dehydration, give the patient plenty of fluids-juice, water and soups.

Report any signs of dehydration to your doctor immediately. These include sleepiness or tiredness, thirst, decreased urination or fewer wet diapers.

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    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      Whooping Cough sounds very uncomfortable.