Whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, is becoming widespread yet again. Symptoms usually begin as a cold and include a runny nose, fever and mild cough. The cough is often still present after two weeks and may last up to six weeks. The cough can become violent with fits of coughing, or leave you or your child blue or red faced.

Whooping cough requires a visit to the doctor. Most doctors will ask what the cough sounds like. Whooping cough has a trademark “whoop” heard after the cough, when the person is trying to catch his or her breath. Patients diagnosed with whooping cough need to be treated with prescription medication to decrease symptoms and stop the spread of infection. It is important to follow your doctor’s advice, complete the medication, avoid contact with others and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Over-the-counter medications do not help whooping cough. Plenty of rest, fluids and steamy showers may help make the person more comfortable and make breathing easier. It is important to avoid fireplaces and any form of smoke as dirty air will make it harder to breathe.

Whooping cough is preventable through a childhood vaccine, or injection. Three doses of this vaccine are needed to be effective against whooping cough. Five to 10 years after the initial shot, children and adults will need a booster to keep the person from contracting whooping cough.

It is very important to keep a close eye on infants and young children with whooping cough as it can lead to pneumonia or other serious illnesses. These young children are also at risk of a choking episode or even loss of consciousness. Good hand-washing is always recommended to avoid spreading germs and to keep your children safe.

This article was written by Lisa Teasley, RN, a nurse on Children’s Direct at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. For more information about whooping cough, contact our Family Resource Center.

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