Whooping Cough: What You Need To Know To Protect Your Infant

Whooping cough (pertussis) has been on the rise in the U.S. in recent years. Last year, the CDC reported 28,660 cases of whooping cough in the U.S. alone. With cases increasing annually, protecting infants is imperative in controlling the disease in your home. Understanding the signs and symptoms of whooping cough, along with the recommended protocol for immunization, can mean the difference between life and death for the children in your home or care.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a respiratory illness caused by bordetella pertussis bacteriaThis bacteria attaches itself to the tiny hairs that line the respiratory system. Once it has attached, it will release toxins that damage and inflame the respiratory system.

Whooping cough is highly contagious and easily spread, hence the need to take precautions to prevent this disease from entering into your home. The bacteria becomes airborne when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Once airborne, it can infect those with whom it comes in contact.

Signs and symptoms

Whooping cough can start with mild symptoms that mimic the common cold, such as:

  • Mild fever
  • Runny nose and/or congestion
  • Occasional coughing

Since whooping cough mimics the common cold, it isn't unusual for symptoms to go on for a week. If your child is experiencing the same or worsening symptoms for up to two weeks, they may be experiencing the beginning stages of whooping cough.

When left to progress, whooping cough escalates from cold symptoms to extreme coughing fits that can be accompanied by vomiting and severe exhaustion. Whooping cough can also open the door for:

  • Pneumonia
  • Convulsions
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Altered brain function
  • Death

Protect your infant

Knowing how harmful whooping cough can be, protection from this deadly disease is imperative in homes where infants reside. Your first line of defense is the whooping cough vaccine, otherwise known as the dTap vaccine. According to vaccines.gov, infants should be vaccinated at:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15-18 months
  • 4-6 years

Another way to protect your children from this disease is to make sure those who are around your infant are also vaccinated. Following up on vaccination schedules with older children as well as getting boosters for the adults in your home is the best way to protect those who haven't received all their vaccinations yet. Contact a professional clinic, like The Pediatric Center, to schedule any initial immunizations or boosts.

I've been vaccinated, now what?

Unfortunately, pertussis can still show up in those who have been vaccinated. In most cases their symptoms are far less severe, and many don't even know they have contracted whooping cough. This is why vaccination is key in infants and children. When they are up to date on their vaccination schedule, the odds of contracting the disease decrease as well as the severity of the symptoms.

Protecting your children from this highly contagious disease can be made simple when you know what to look for, and follow through with the recommended vaccination schedule. Keep a close eye on infants who come down with colds. If their symptoms persist, take them to the doctor for further evaluation. Be diligent in following their vaccination schedule, and make sure those who they are in contact with are also vaccinated. By doing these things, you can keep whooping cough from becoming a part of your life.