What is Whooping Cough?

Here’s what you need to know about this contagious disease.

What is Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Overview

Whooping cough spreads easily by coughing and sneezing. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, gets its common name from the high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop” following a severe hacking cough in many infected persons. It often starts with cold-like symptoms, with coughing continuing for weeks.

Dangerous for Babies

Whooping cough is a very serious disease, especially for infants. It can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death. About half of infants younger than 12 months who get whooping cough must go to the hospital. Babies usually get whooping cough from family members who don’t realize they have the disease, which is why ensuring that children and adults surrounding a baby are protected through immunization is essential. Since infants cannot start the DTaP series until they are 2 months old, pregnant women should get the Tdap during the third trimester (27 – 36 weeks) of every pregnancy in order to protect newborns.

Whooping Cough Symptoms

Symptoms of whooping cough can vary depending on age. Anyone with a persistent cough, especially if it includes fits of coughing or causes vomiting, should seek medical care.

Symptoms in Infants

Infants with whooping cough may have trouble feeding and breathing and may turn bluish. Many infants are unable to even cough. The disease is most serious in infants, especially those not fully protected or too young to get the vaccine.

Symptoms in Babies and Young Children

Babies older than 6 months and young children with whooping cough can have severe coughing spells that make it hard to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep. The cough is often followed by a “whooping” sound and young children may vomit after long coughing spells.

Symptoms in Older Children and Adults

The disease can be quite mild or cause several weeks of exhausting coughing.

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