Protect Your Baby from Whooping Cough


whoopingcoughYou’ve probably seen a lot of talk in the news recently about the increase in pertussis (also known as whooping cough).

It’s a bacterial infection that usually starts with a runny nose, fever and cough. The cough develops into a raspy cough that sounds more like a loud bark than an actual cough.

It’s a highly contagious disease. People with pertussis usually spread it by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. The symptoms usually develop within seven to 10 days after exposure, but sometimes it takes as long as six weeks.

“If you’ve ever seen a child with pertussis you, won’t forget it,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The child coughs violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from his/her lungs and he/she is forced to inhale with the loud ‘whooping’ sound that gives the disease its nickname. Then the coughing begins again.”

These severe coughing spells can go on for weeks, says the AAP. The child might turn blue from lack of air, or vomit after a coughing spell. A child with pertussis can have difficulty eating, drinking or even breathing. Infants with pertussis are often hospitalized to assist their breathing.
Young infants are at the highest risk for pertussis-related complications, including pneumonia, seizures, brain swelling and even death, according to experts at Brenner Children’s Hospital, which is a part of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem North Carolina. In the U.S., the incidence of pertussis peaks at one month of age and progressively decreases over the next year. Pneumonia is the most common cause of infant pertussis-related deaths. Most deaths occur among unvaccinated children or infants too young to be vaccinated.