-Dr.Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
When babies are born we try to protect them from any disease that can harm them because their immune system is so weak. But we need to think about elderly adults too. Nationally, the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control are reporting 11,466 cases of the contagious illness – 4,400 cases in California. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, affects infants, unimmunized children and elderly adults. Complications that can arise are pneumonia, ear infections, vomiting and hydration if left untreated.
What is it and how is it transmitted
Whooping cough is a respiratory infection brought on by a bacterium called bordetella pertussis. The way airborne disease can spread by direct contact or through inhaling it in the air.
Whooping Cough Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic, once you become infected with whooping cough it takes three days to two weeks for signs and symptoms to appear:
• Runny nose
• Nasal congestion
• Red, watery eyes
• Mild fever
• Dry cough
After a week or two, symptoms worsen. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
• bring up thick phlegm
• provoke vomiting
• cause extreme fatigue
• end with a high-pitched “whoop” sound
Sometimes people (infants, adolescents and adults) do not develop the characteristic whoop. The cough can simply be persistent and hacking.
How to prevent whooping cough:
• The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get the vaccine. Elderly adults and caregivers are encouraged to get it. The vaccine does not contain the additive thimerosal, a preservative containingmercury that has been the subject of long-running public debate about whether it can cause autism. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Wash your hands regularly in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.
If your parent has a persistent cough, runs a low fever, coughs up phlegm or has any of the above symptoms, he or she must be seen by a doctor. Treatment may be with antibiotics to kill the bacteria plus cough medicines.
Now that you know the whooping cough symptoms, make sure you get yourself, or an elderly adult, to a doctor as soon as possible if any of these symptoms appear!