Whooping cough is an illness that until recent years occurred mainly in children. It is caused by the bacteria bordetella pertussis. It has an incubation period of seven to 14 days.
It starts with the same symptoms as a normal cold, for instance, a stuffy nose, watery eyes and cough. Some mild cases of whooping cough abort after this time and do not progress any further and the sufferer or their family won’t be aware they had whooping cough.
In other cases, after a period of about two weeks, the cough increases in intensity and begins to occur in bouts. In older children and in moderate to severe cases of whooping cough, the child makes a whooping sound as they catch their breath. This is why pertussis became known as whooping cough. Babies less than a year old do not normally make this whooping sound.
Sometimes the sufferer will vomit and in severe cases, turn blue.
The coughing fits usually last several weeks and can in fact last three months or more, which is why parents used to refer to it as the 100-day cough. It often worsens at night and when the person is lying flat. It is infectious and can be passed on by droplets resulting from coughing or sneezing. However it is a cyclical illness, occurring in clusters every four to five years.
While the majority of people get through whooping cough with no complications, in some cases it can be fatal. The high risks groups are very young babies, particularly those under six months of age, and the immune-compromised. Fatalities from whooping cough do not usually occur in children over one year of age.
Whooping cough cases have been increasing in recent years due to vaccine waning, the low efficacy of the vaccine and fact that most parents were vaccinated themselves as babies and this prevents them from passing on natural immunity to their babies via breast feeding at a crucial time when it is needed most. Compounding this is the fact that a lot of newborns never even receive any breast milk at all.
Treatment for Whooping Cough
Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics if they are given at the start of the infection.