Whooping Cough: A Life-Threatening Illness

Published 10/25 2013 07:44AM

Updated 10/26 2013 01:12PM

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It can cause serious illness and can be life threatening.

“Whooping" is a sound that is made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing.

Some patients experience violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and they are forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound.

This extreme coughing can cause you to vomit, become very tired, and makes it hard to breathe.

Pertussis most commonly affects young children and can be fatal, especially in patients less than 1 year of age

“She would wake up and she couldn't catch her breathe,” says Casey Beam, a concerned mother. “She even threw up a little from coughing so hard.”

Symptoms can last for weeks.

They range from runny nose, fever, cough and vomiting to exhaustion and even seizures.

A small percent of patients can die from whooping coughing and some patients may cough up to 100 times pre day.

“I thought, well we'll be here for one or two days, no big deal and then we'll go home,” says Jennifer Shepherd, whose child had whooping cough. “And we ended up being there for almost three weeks.”

Antibiotics and early treatment are very important.

Treatment may make your infection less severe if it's started early, before coughing fits begin.

“He was so tired of fighting it and that's when I thought he was going to die,” says Shepherd. “He was just so tired and he would cough and he would just turn completely blue.”

Also fluids, rest, and using mist vaporizer helps in addition to avoiding chemical irritants.

Cough medicine is not advised for those less than 4 years old.

Vaccination is so important because half of infants less than 1 year of age who get Pertussis are hospitalized, so make sure you're up to date with all your immunizations.

The best prevention from whooping cough is immunization and good hand hygiene.

Vaccines of course are available. The childhood vaccine is called the d-tap and there is a booster vaccine for older patients.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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