What is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is a respiratory infection caused by the bacteria bordatella pertussis, which can cause violent coughing fits. It is spread from droplets released into the air from an infected person coughing, and so anyone in the vicinity can also get infected.
What are the symptoms of Whooping Cough?
The whooping cough infection generally follows three phases. In the first phase, the infection is like any other respiratory infection, with symptoms including a runny nose, congestion and a mild cough. After 1-2 weeks, the typical ‘whooping’ phase begins, with symptoms including:
Coughing fits, especially at night
The need to gasp for air after coughing fit, causing the ‘whoop’
Difficulty eating, drinking or sleeping
Turning blue after/during coughing fits
Vomiting after coughing fits
After this phase, patients will generally have a residual more mild cough for up to 10 weeks (the third phase).
Why does it matter?
For most of us, it means an unpleasant few weeks of feeling sick (and maybe a week or two off school or work). However, for young children and especially babies it can be very serious. Because babies have smaller airways, the infection can block them up and cause apnoeas, meaning the baby stops breathing. A whooping cough infection in children less than 1 year old can result in hospitalisation, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and even death.
How can it be prevented?
There is a vaccine for Whooping Cough, which is recommended for everyone. The vaccine is part of the National Immunisation Programme for all children and is usually given starting from 2 months, with boosters given multiple times after. Unfortunately, children younger than 2 months are not able to receive the vaccine, and they are most at risk of serious health problems if they contract the disease. Because of this, it is recommended that anyone who comes into contact with a newborn ensures that they are immune from Whooping Cough. Although you are likely to have received the Whooping Cough vaccine as a child, the immunity is not lifelong and you may need to have a booster shot, which you can organise by speaking to your GP.
f you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018, Whooping Cough and the Vaccine to Prevent it [ONLINE], Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/child/pertussis.html (Accessed 29 Jun 2018)
NSW Government 2016, Whooping Cough (Pertussis) [ONLINE], Available at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Factsheets/pertussis.pdf (Accessed 29 Jun 2018)
Medscape 2017, Pertussis [ONLINE] Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/967268-overview (Accessed 29 Jun 2018)
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