Whopping cough is a disease of the airways. It affects the trachea (windpipe) and the two bronchi (the two pipes that lead to the lungs). It is a highly contagious disease that is mainly spread through sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge. Whooping cough used to be a very common disease in babies until an appropriate vaccination was found. However, there are babies around the world who are still diagnosed with the disease.
Perhaps the main reason why some babies still get affected is because the disease now affects adults more that babies with affected adults affecting babies around them. Whooping cough occurs during outbreaks of which the latest outbreak was in 2012 in England and whales where over 10,000 cases were confirmed.
Whooping cough occurs in stages with each stage showing different symptoms. Initial symptoms do appear a week after a baby is infected. The initial symptoms include persistent dry and irritating cough, sneezing, development of sore throat, high fever and running nose that is often blocked.
The initial symptoms can last for up to one week before easing off only to pave the way for more severe symptoms. Severe symptoms do include intense bouts of cough, a whooping sound accompanied by a sharp intake of air, vomiting and general body weakness. However, not all babies produce the whoop sound. There are some who only gasp.
The second stage symptoms can last for up to a month even after treatment. This is before they start to ease off. This is usually the recovery period, which can be for as long as two months. This is the reason why the disease is often referred to as “the hundred day’s disease”.
Bordetella pertussis bacterium is what causes whopping cough. The bacterium affects airway lining, leading to accumulation of thick mucus, which is responsible for the bouts of cough as a baby’s body tries to get rid of it. The infection also leads to swelling of the airways, which leads to difficulty in breathing and the resultant whoop sound. Babies and adults with the infection remain contagious for a week before symptoms start to show.
Whooping cough needs to be diagnosed in good time so as to prevent the development of severe symptoms and to reduce the rate of transmission. A pediatrician is most likely to prescribe antibiotics with parents or caregivers advised to restrict such babies indoors for at least five days. Babies under 1 year are in most cases admitted in hospital for monitoring during the course of treatment.
Vaccination is the only sure way of preventing whooping cough. Pregnant women are usually vaccinated against the infection to give the unborn babies sufficient protection when they are eventually delivered. Babies also receive the vaccination when they attain ages of 8, 12 and 16 weeks with a second dose when they are about to join pre-school.
It is always very necessary for babies suspected to be infected with the bacterium to be taken to a medical facility in good time. This is because an infected baby can develop severe complications as a result of the infection. Such complications include inflammation of the lungs leading to pneumonia, extreme weight loss, low blood pressure, kidney failure and damage to the brain.