Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is caused by a bacterial infection that usually starts in the nose and throat. Regardless of how old a person is, whooping cough may be life threatening and require hospitalization. It can also be mild and mistaken for a common cold or bronchitis. Likewise, severe cases of bronchitis can be mistaken for whopping cough and require a test to determine the difference.
Early symptoms of whooping cough, according to the CDC, generally begin to show 5-10 days after being exposed to the bacteria – usually from someone else infected with the disease. Those early symptoms may be just a runny nose, low-grade fever, mild cough and in many babies – apnea – which is a pause in breathing. It’s during the early stages of pertussis that it is often thought to be just a cold or mild case of bronchitis.
After about 1-2 weeks of the early symptoms, whooping cough, the later and more severe symptoms begin to appear. These include severe or prolonged coughing fits, also known as paroxysms. In true whooping cough, the coughing fits are frequently followed by a high pitched ‘whoop’ sound, hence its name. This is caused by the coughing fit emptying all of the air from the lungs which causes the person to ‘whoop’ or gasp for air. Vomiting may accompany coughing fits, either during or afterwards. Fatigue and exhaustion also follows the coughing fits.
The coughing caused by whooping cough can persist for 10 weeks or longer. In parts of China, it’s often referred to as the 100-day cough.
As stated before, bronchitis is sometimes thought to be whooping cough and vice versa. In my younger days, I used to get severe bronchitis twice a year and my cough was quite severe and lasted for at least a month. One doctor, who saw me for the first time swore I had whooping cough was ready to put me in the hospital and quarantine the family. After my mom shared my bronchitis history, the doctor ran some tests and determined that I had a severe case of whopping cough. He then told us that it’s easy to confuse the two.
Treatment for whooping cough consists of antibiotics. Over-the-counter cough medicines generally have little to no affect or relief for whooping cough and many medical professionals advise using them, especially on younger children. However, it is best to talk to your doctor or pediatrician and ask questions.
For decades now, many newborns receive a myriad of vaccines to prevent illnesses like whooping cough as the disease can be extremely dangerous for babies under the age of 1-year. Some believe that vaccines can lead to other health conditions including autism, so a growing number of parents opt not to vaccinate their infants.
A study was conducted on nearly 150,000 babies born in California between 2006 and 2015. According to a source reporting on the study:
“The study included nearly 149,000 infants born in California between 2006 and 2015. The percentage whose mothers received the Tdap booster vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (‘whooping cough’) while pregnant rose from less than 1 percent in 2006-2008 to more than 87 percent by 2015.”
“In early 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the Tdap shot for pregnant women regardless of prior Tdap vaccination. The vaccine can be given at any time during pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation.”
“Babies whose moms got the Tdap shot during pregnancy had a 91 percent lower risk of whooping cough during the first two months of life. That’s the critical period before babies get their first whooping cough shot, the Kaiser Permanente researchers said.”
“Babies whose moms got the vaccine during pregnancy also had a 69 percent lower risk of whooping cough in their first year of life, the findings showed.”
Whooping cough is can be quite serious, especially for babies. If you are hesitant about having your newborns vaccinated, then seriously consider getting vaccinated while you’re pregnant. It just may save your child’s life and protect them from spending a month in the hospital racking up huge medical bills.