Whooping cough is a disease that mostly affects the respiratory system. The cause of it is bacteria Bordetella pertussis, which infects the lungs and causes clogging of the respiratory tract (bronchi) with thick mucus. Exceptionally strong cough attacks, which are characteristic of this disease, may take several weeks. Symptoms occur after incubation, which lasts 7 to 14 days.
The initial symptoms are similar to flu symptoms – nose leaking, dry cough and somewhat elevated temperature. However, unlike ordinary cold, symptoms of whooping cough are getting worse after a few days. Nasal discharge becomes thicker and the cough gets stronger until it takes the form of a seizure that may last for a minute. Since the child can not breathe during coughing, its face turns red or may even turn blue (cyanosis) due to lack of oxygen. Vomiting very often comes after coughing. The period of severe cough attacks may last from 14 days to 10 weeks. Cough and vomiting then gradually become milder and less common, although coughing may last for several months.
Thanks to a vaccination program (immunization), whooping cough is rare in European countries.
Whooping cough can be very dangerous, and it is more dangerous for younger children. Rupture of blood vessels in the brain during coughing, encephalitis or cyanosis can cause death, although the fatal outcome is extremely rare in children who are older than six months.
Although they do not have to be deadly, these complications can permanently damage the brain. Especially dangerous is a possibility of lung inflammation development that permanently damages the lungs in 1 out of 100 sick children.
What to do?
A child who has been vaccinated against whooping cough will rarely get a severe form of the disease, and the disease can usually only occur in milder form. However, the vaccination procedure itself may be dangerous due to the possible development of encephalitis (which is, however, very rare), so vaccination is not advised in children who had previously had one or more seizures. In all other cases, vaccination is necessary because possible dangers are minimal in relation to the dangerous complications of the disease itself.
If your child is not vaccinated against whooping cough and gets a cough that does not stop within a week (and becomes even wrose), contact a doctor who will look at the child and determine if he or she has whooping cough.
Self-help: in most cases the child can stay at home. The doctor will probably visit the child regularly during a severe coughing phase. Whether the patient is a small child, it will be taken to the hospital. If you notice that your baby has turned blue during coughing, call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately.
Do not give the child any cough medicines because the cough – though painful – prevents the lung clogging. To avoid vomiting after coughing, give your baby small and frequent meals immediately after the seizure.
During coughing, it is best to put the newborn on the belly and raise the lower part of the crib. Small children usually prefer to sit and lean forward. Encourage and calm the child – you cannot help him more than that.
Professional help: if the treatment starts on time, antibiotics can alleviate the cough. If the cough is unusually strong and the patient is a newborn baby or a small child, the doctor will send him / her to the hospital where he / she will get oxygen – in the so-called oxygen tent.