Health Topics: Whooping Cough Cause, Symptoms, Signs, Treatments, And Cures

Causes, symptoms, signs, treatments, and cures for infants, children, and adults infected with the Whooping cough respiratory disease.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very contagious respiratory disease.Caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, humans spread the illness through droplets in the air (sneezing and/or coughing) or direct contact with an infected person's secretions.Relentless coughing spasms, referred to as paroxysms, are the primary characterization of the sickness.Complications of whooping cough include otitis media, pneumonia, rib fracture, and weight loss.

Initially, the symptoms of whooping cough are akin to a mild upper respiratory infection or the common cold, such as a minor cough, runny nose, low-grade temperature, congestion, and fatigue.This stage of the illness, known at the catarrhal stage, lasts an average of four weeks.As the disease progresses, patients experience a worsening, repetitive, lasting coughing.Patients often experience a worse cough at nighttime. The cough typically ends with a characteristic sound: a high-pitched "whoop," however, not all patients exhibit this trait.Patients may also vomit after a coughing spasm. This is the paroxysmal stage, which can last two to four weeks or even longer.The illness is most contagious about ten days before the cough begins until about three weeks after cough onset.Physicians usually rely on clinical signs and symptoms to diagnose whooping cough; however, some may obtain a culture through a nasal swab.The disease can be more severe in infants than in older children or adults, causing complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and/or death.

Doctors use antibiotics, usually erythromycin, to treat patients with whooping cough.Patients take the antibiotics for 14 days because relapse may occur with shorter courses of treatment.Other antibiotics prescribed to treat the illness include azithromycin (Zithromax), clarithromycin (Biaxin), and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim).The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these antibiotics for this indication.The aim of therapy is limiting the number of coughing spells as well as supportive therapy, including nutritional support and fluids.Medicines with cough suppressants do not provide much benefit to the patient with whooping cough.Some physicians use steroids and or bronchodilators, such as albuterol, to reduce the severity of coughing.In patients who experience breathing problems with the illness, the physician may prescribe oxygen.Doctors often prescribe preventive therapy with antibiotics for persons with close contact with the pertussis patient.Close contacts include family member as well as friends at school and daycare.

A pertussis vaccine is also available and recommended for all children who are less than seven years of age.The pertussis vaccine is universally accepted and is very effective in reducing the chance of obtaining the illness; however, it does not prevent the disease in all persons who receive the vaccine.The pertussis vaccine is part of the DTaP vaccine, known as the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine.Generally, children less than seven years old receive the DTaP vaccine in a series of five doses.Infants receive the vaccine as a primary series at two, four, and six months.Toddlers receive a reinforcing dose between 15 and 18 months and young children receive a booster dose between four to six years.The immunity produced by the vaccine diminishes within five to ten years, thus making this age group susceptible to pertussis.

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