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Whooping Cough Information, Risk Factors

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can be described as a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract. This infection is usually characterized by a hacking cough, immediately followed by a high-pitched intake of breath. This intake sounds like a “whoop”, which is why the condition is known as a whooping cough. The whooping cough sound can be quite scary for the children suffering from this condition, as well as their parents. In the earlier part of the century, this condition was a leading cause of death and illnesses in the United States.
However, since a whooping cough vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, the number of cases has been declining gradually. Nevertheless, it is possible for the condition to affect mainly those children who are very young and have not completed the full course of the vaccinations. It is also possible to see cases of whooping cough in adults and teenagers, whose immunity has faded.

Whooping cough risk factors increase because of two main factors. The first one is when the effect of the vaccination wears off, after a while. Therefore, during an outbreak, teenagers and some adults may also be more susceptible to the infection. Children who have not received all the three immunization shots are also at a much higher risk. Parents who have more than one child often ask doctors how contagious a whooping cough is. This condition is caused by a bacterial infection and there is a very high chance of it spreading from one person to the other.

Fortunately, it is possible to treat a whooping cough, if the right steps are taken immediately. In several cases, infants may need to be hospitalized for the treatment. However, at times, people may experience recurring whooping cough symptoms, especially if they are also suffering from a cold or another respiratory infection. Also see whooping cough diet

Whooping Cough Symptoms

The whooping cough symptoms in infants, toddlers and children usually take at least 12 days or so to appear, after the body is exposed to the infection. Several parents tend to overlook the initial whooping cough signs in children, mainly because they are quite similar to the signs of a common cold. Some of the most common initial whooping cough symptoms in toddlers, infants and older children include:
  • Dry cough
  • Watery, red eyes
  • Nasal congestion or a runny nose
  • Mild fever
  • Sneezing
However, as the condition progresses, the symptoms also get worse. Given below are some of the more serious whooping cough signs in children:
  • A high pitched whooping sound on inhaling after a hacking cough
  • Changes in the color of the face, where the skin turns bluish or reddish
  • Coughing up thick phlegm
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Vomiting
In most cases, these symptoms are not present in adults and teenagers, even though they suffer from this infection. At times, the only whooping cough symptoms in adults and children could be the hacking cough and the sound of the whoop. The whooping cough symptoms should never be left ignored, regardless of the age of the patient. It is essential to consult a doctor as soon as any of them become evident.

Whooping Cough Treatment, Diagnosis

Diagnosing the condition accurately is a bit of a challenge, especially if it is in the initial stages. However, as the condition progresses, many doctors recognize the infection just by observing the symptoms. In some instances, doctors may order certain tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some of the most common test recommended include:
  • PCR test for whooping cough: Also known as a Polymerase Chain Reaction, this test amplifies the bacterial genetic material. The results of these tests are usually available in a couple of days.
  • Swab test for whooping cough: This test can also referred to as a nose or throat culture test, a medical expert takes a swab of the nose or the throat and sends it to a lab for testing.
  • Blood test for whooping cough: A sample of blood is taken from the patient and is sent to a lab, to check for high levels of white blood cells.
  • Chest x ray for whooping cough: At times, the presence of fluid or inflammation in the lungs may need to be determined with the help of screening tests like x rays.
As soon as a diagnosis of the whooping cough is confirmed, it is absolutely essential to start treatment immediately. The whooping cough treatment in adults may not require hospitalization, unlike children. This could be because most children find it difficult to keep food and liquids down and therefore need to be fed intravenously. Adults and older children are usually asked to take certain prescription medicines and antibiotics. Many doctors need to prescribe antibiotics as a part of whooping cough cure for toddlers too.

In many cases, doctors allow home treatment for whooping cough, especially for children, toddlers and infants. Given below are some of the most commonly recommended home treatment options for whooping cough:
  • Getting a lot of rest
  • Drinking a high amount of fluids in a day
  • Eating meals that are smaller, but more frequent
  • Adding a vaporizer to the room
  • Keeping the environment free of irritants and pollutants
  • Following strict hygienic measures to prevent recurrence or transmission
Even those parents who are using a whooping cough remedy for children need to ensure that the condition is monitored by a health care provider at all times.

Do antibiotics work for whooping cough?

Antibiotics are usually required in the treatment of a whooping cough, especially in older children, teens and adults. Since a whooping cough is usually a result of a bacterial infection, most doctors prescribe antibiotics, to kill the cough and to speed up the recovery process. In many cases, when one person suffers from this condition, the entire family and other household members are asked to take antibiotics for whooping cough as a part of preventative measures.

In addition to antibiotics, a patient could also take over the counter medication for relieving a cough. However, these medicines only suppress the cough; they have no effect at all on the infection causing bacteria and therefore should be avoided.

Whooping Cough Causes

Whooping cough is a result of a bacterial infection, which can easily spread from one person to the other. The main whooping cough pathogen is the Bordetella Pertussis, a gram-negative rod, which favors the respiratory tract lining. Studies on bacteria and whooping cough indicate that the only known host for this infection is the human.
Submitted on January 16, 2014