Whooping cough is an acute, protracted and dangerous disease, especially for infants. The causative agent of the disease is the bacterium Bordetella pertusis. The bacterium produces a toxin that travels through the blood to the brain and causes coughing attacks. Typical symptoms of the disease can be observed in children of kindergarten age: a severe cough ending in wheezing. In infants, whooping cough manifests itself differently; instead of coughing, doctors observe life-threatening breath holdings. Therefore, infants under 6 months of age should be supervised in a hospital.
Course of the disease
Older children develop a runny nose, an uncharacteristic cough and low fever. These symptoms may last from one to two weeks. Then, mild symptoms are replaced by nightly attacks of gusty coughing with shortness of breath and, in some cases, with bluish skin. The coughing fit ends with a greedy gulp of air. Vomiting may occur when coughing up mucus. Infants develop an uncharacteristic cough and breathing problems, especially holding their breath.
When to call a doctor
The next day, if the imaginary cold has not gone away within a week, and the coughing attacks have only worsened. During the day, if the child is over 1 year old and the symptoms of the disease are similar to whooping cough. Call the doctor immediately if you suspect whooping cough in an infant or if an older child has shortness of breath and bluish skin.
The doctor will take a blood test and a throat swab from the child. Diagnosis can be made easier by recording your nighttime cough on your mobile phone. If whooping cough is diagnosed early, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic treatment. At a late stage of the disease, antibiotics can only reduce the infectiousness for other family members. All kinds of cough medicines can hardly be effective.
Your help to the child
During coughing attacks, make sure that the child is in an upright position. Possible shortness of breath may make your child afraid, so stay close to him at all times. Try to reduce coughing attacks with a warm compress of lemon juice (juice of half a lemon in ¾ liter of water) or thyme tea. Follow the drinking regime. It is best to be in a room with high humidity. You can take a walk outside if it’s not too cold outside.