How to Spot Whooping Cough Symptoms

Whooping cough symptoms often begin as regular cold symptoms. The telltale sign is a dry, barking cough that goes on and on; you try giving your child sips of water and over-the-counter cough medicine, but the coughing returns. 

What Is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory infection caused by the Bordetella Pertusiss bacteria. This particular respiratory infection causes severe coughing spells that can end in a whooping sound as the person draws in a breath, hence the name whooping cough. While quite common, not all children suffering from whooping cough will have the whooping sound at the end of their cough.
The Difference Between a Cold and Whooping Cough
The symptoms of whooping cough are very similar to a common cold. Until the coughing spells appear, usually in the middle of the night, it is hard to determine if your child has whooping cough.

The symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, a low fever and a mild, dry cough. After a week or two, the initially mild dry cough turns into prolonged coughing spells. The coughing spells can be very scary. They may go on for a while and your child may turn purple or red from the effort of coughing. As if the coughing fit itself isn't bad enough, the whooping cough episode may cause your child to vomit after the coughing spell.

By the time the whooping cough starts, the initial cold like symptoms have usually dissipated. This leaves a seemingly healthy child, but one who is prone to coughing spells. In between the coughing spells, your child usually feels fine.

Whooping cough is highly contagious, it spreads from person to person via the fluids from an infected person's nose or mouth. Coughing, sneezing and laughing are common ways that the bacteria become airborne. The bacterium is most contagious during the earliest part of the illness and up to about two weeks after the cough begins.

Treatment of Whooping Cough
Bacteria cause whooping cough, which means it can be treated with a course of antibiotics. The antibiotic treatment usually lasts for five days. Unfortunately, whooping cough may not be diagnosed early enough for the short course of antibiotics to be effect, so a longer course up to two weeks of antibiotics may be necessary.

During that time, there are a few things you can do to make your child more comfortable. Try using a vaporizer in your child's room. The mist helps soothe irritated lungs and loosens the respiratory secretions.

If you do not own a vaporizer, the steam from a shower can be just as effective. It clears the lungs and helps ease breathing.

It is also important to keep the air clear of irritants in the home and sick room. That means no fumes from tobacco smoke or from fireplaces.

Controlling the Spread of Whooping Cough
Since whooping cough is highly contagious, you should take some precautions to try and control its spread.

  • Isolation: Confine the infected person to a spare room until five days of antibiotics have been administered. Anyone who enters the sick room should wear a surgical mask.
  • Hand washing: Since whooping cough is spread through contact with bodily fluids, hands should be washed immediately after tending to the ill person. In addition, all dishes and utensils used by the infected person should be sanitized thoroughly with hot water.

Anyone with whooping cough should be isolated for five days after starting antibiotics or for three weeks after the onset of the coughing spasms if the person has not received antibiotic treatment.

Whooping cough usually lasts for around six weeks. The best defense is vaccination. Whooping cough can be prevented with the DTaP shot, which combines vaccines for Diphtheria, Tetanus and whooping cough.

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