There are certain medical conditions that can affect children more-so than adults – whopping cough being one of them. While it can impact adults – including those diagnosed with a chronic respiratory illness, or women who are pregnant (especially those in their third trimester) – whooping cough is most commonly seen in infants younger than 6 months of age (who aren’t yet protected by immunizations), or children and teens between aged 11 and 18 with weakened immune systems.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that is caused by the bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis. Whooping cough typically starts with mild cold-like symptoms (such as runny nose, sore throat, and slightly raised temperature.) Approximately one week after the onset of these symptoms, severe coughing spells will follow (as well as the potential to cause trouble with breathing.) These coughing spells can be rapid and uncontrolled, and can last anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks – with the spells oftentimes worsening and becoming more frequent as the illness persists.
As mentioned, whopping cough is contagious and is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, while it can also be spread by coming into contact with the infected person’s mucus or saliva.
If left untreated, whooping cough can lead to other complications – especially in babies younger than 1 year of age – and may require hospitalization. Therefore, it’s important to treat it as early as possible with antibiotics. Hospital treatment typically focuses on monitoring breathing and giving oxygen if necessary, ensuring breathing passages are clear, and preventing dehydration. In addition to treating whopping cough with antibiotics, there are other things that you can do to manage symptoms at home, such as by keeping your home free from irritants (i.e., smoke, dust, and chemical fumes), use a humidifier to help loosen mucus and soothe the cough, wash hands often, and drink plenty of fluids (i.e., water, juice, soup.)
Vaccination is the best preventative measure against whooping cough, and is recommended for all babies, children, pre-teens, and pregnant women.