What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough is also known as pertussis or 100 day cough. It is a highly contagious, serious respiratory tract infection, which is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The infection causes violent uncontrollable paroxysm of hacking cough, followed by a high pitched sound, “whoop”, during a deep breath.
Initially the symptoms are similar to common flu, like runny nose, fever and mild cough. But in pertussis, these symptoms are followed by episodes of violent cough fits. These episodes may last for about 10 weeks.
Whooping cough can affect any one at any age, but it’s more common and serious disease for infants and young children.
Earlier, disease was known to be fatal for infants and children. But now, a vaccine is developed against this disease, though it’s partially effective. It primarily affects those infants who have not got the full dosage of their vaccines, or to those adults, whose immunity has faded over years.
Whooping cough is caused by bacteria Bordetella pertussis. This disease is highly contagious and the person may catch the infection by coming in contact with the infected droplets that come out of the infected person’s nose or mouth, by sneezing or coughing.
Signs and symptoms
The sign and symptoms of whooping cough may take about 10 days to appear, after the person gets infected. Though, it may take even longer. The initial symptoms of the disease are usually mild and are similar to the common flu, like-
- Running nose
- Mild cough
- Nasal congestion
- Red and watery eyes
These symptoms continue for a week, then they start to worsen. There starts accumulation of thick mucous in the respiratory tract, causing severe uncontrollable coughing. This kind of episodes of prolonged cough, may-
- Cause vomiting
- Result into blue or purple skin around the mouth
- Cause low grade fever
- Lead to dehydration
- Cause breathing difficulties
- Extreme fatigue
- End with a high pitched sound(whoop), during next breath of air
Most of the time patients do not present with characteristic whooping sound. Adults often present with only a persistent uncontrollable hacking cough, while infants may not cough at all. Infants may present with just stuffed up nose, which makes it difficult for them to breathe.
The vaccines for whooping cough do not provide a life long immunity. The young adults and teenagers are at greatest risk for developing this disease during an outbreak, as the affect of vaccine fades away with time. The outbreaks of whooping cough is very common in developing nations.
The infants who have not received the full set of vaccinations are at greatest risk of developing this disease, which may become very serious for them and even prove fatal.
Whooping cough does not develop any specific complications in the teenagers and adults. Most of the complications develop due to strenuous episodes of coughing, like-
- Bruising or cracking if ribs
- Abdominal hernias
- Breaking of the small blood vessels of the whites of the eyes and skin
Infants under 6 months of age are more at risk of developing serious complications like-
- Difficulty or stoppage of breathing
- Weight loss due to difficulty in feeding
- Brain damage
The diagnosis of whooping cough may be difficult in the beginning due to similarly in symptoms with common flu. However, doctor may diagnose the disease by listening to the characteristic ‘whoop’, if it’s present.
For confirming the diagnosis, doctor may take a swab from nose or throat for the lab investigation to check the presence of infecting bacteria.
Homeopathic medicines are being used since 1800s to control the symptoms of whooping cough. The homeopathic medicines are very effective in controlling the dry hacking, uncontrollable cough of pertussis.
The homeopathy medicines can also be used as a preventive during the outbreak of the disease. They are equally effective for infants and adults, and provide rapid, gentle and permanent cure in the cases of pertussis.