Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a serious infection that affects the lungs and airways. It can cause severe coughing fits that make it hard to breathe, eat, or sleep. Sometimes, the cough is followed by a high-pitched whoop sound or a gasp for air.
Whooping cough can last for several weeks or months, and can lead to complications such as vomiting, broken ribs, exhaustion, pneumonia, seizures, or even death.
Whooping cough is caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria attach to the tiny hairs (cilia) that line the respiratory tract and damage them. This makes it difficult to clear mucus and germs from the lungs. The bacteria also produce toxins that irritate the airways and cause inflammation and coughing.
Whooping cough is very contagious and can spread easily from person to person through coughing or sneezing. You can catch whooping cough from someone who has it or who has recently had it. You can also get it from someone who has a mild or unrecognized infection. People with whooping cough are most infectious in the first two weeks of illness, but they can still spread the disease for up to three weeks after they start coughing.
The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines available for infants, children, adolescents, and adults. The vaccine protects against pertussis and other diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus. The vaccine is given as a series of shots at different ages. The first dose is usually given at 2 months of age, followed by three more doses at 4, 6, and 15-18 months. A booster dose is given at 4-6 years of age, and another one at 11-12 years of age. Adults should get a booster dose every 10 years.
The vaccine is very effective at preventing severe illness and complications from whooping cough, but it does not provide lifelong immunity. The protection from the vaccine wears off over time, and some people may still get sick even if they have been vaccinated. However, the disease is usually milder and shorter in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people.
If you think you or your child may have whooping cough, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor can diagnose the infection by taking a sample from the nose or throat and testing it for the bacteria. The doctor may also do a chest X-ray or a blood test to check for complications.
The treatment for whooping cough is antibiotics. Antibiotics can help kill the bacteria and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others. They are most effective if started within the first three weeks of symptoms, but they may still be helpful later on. Antibiotics can also prevent or treat complications such as pneumonia. If you have been exposed to someone with whooping cough and you are at high risk of severe illness, such as pregnant women, infants, or people with weakened immune systems, you may need to take antibiotics as a preventive measure.
In addition to antibiotics, you should also take care of yourself or your child by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, eating small and frequent meals, and avoiding irritants such as smoke, dust, or strong smells. You should also stay away from other people until you have completed your course of antibiotics or until you have been coughing for at least three weeks. This will help prevent spreading the infection to others.
Whooping cough is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease that can affect anyone, but especially young children and babies. It can be prevented by getting vaccinated and treated by taking antibiotics. If you have any questions or concerns about whooping cough, talk to your doctor.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456