WHOOPING COUGH (PERTUSSIS)
No doubt you will have read in the newspapers or heard in the news that whooping cough is on the rise. The disease is cyclical and peaks every 3 to 4 years. A peak is now occurring. In fact, during the first quarter of 2012, 1080 cases were reported in England and Wales alone.
Due to the vaccination scheme, whooping cough is now fairly uncommon in young children as most are vaccinated at two, three and four months of age and then again when starting school.
Unfortunately, a newborn baby only has immunity from its mother for the first couple of months of his or her life, therefore it is vitally important that as many women get vaccinated as possible.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It often lasts around 3 months hence why it is often called the ‘100 day cough’. It is passed from person to person through air droplets from coughing and sneezing.
The condition has a very distinct sound. As the name suggests, it is a dry, persistant cough with a ‘whooping’ sound at the end. It is extremely distressing to watch in a young child.
If you suspect you may have whooping cough you need to see your GP who may prescribe a course of antibiotics if you are diagnosed early enough – this will prevent the infection being passed on to others.
Children with whooping cough should be kept away from school until they have finished taking the antibiotics for five days. It is important to keep hydrated if you are suffering from whooping cough – especially babies as they have a low body weight so are sensitive to small amounts of fluid loss.
If your child develops whooping cough and is under one year of age, it is likely that he or she will have to be admitted to hospital. They will probably have to be nursed in isolation to reduce the risk of cross infection. They may also need to be given intravenous antibiotics. If they are extremely ill they may need corticosteroid medication. This will help to reduce the inflammation in the airways.
Because young babies may be severely affected, causing damage to their lungs, they may need extra support like ventilation from a machine. It is because of this that all pregnant women are now being offered the whooping cough vaccination when they are between 28-38 weeks pregnant. picture
This will help to protect your baby in the first few weeks of life as the immunity you get from the vaccination crosses the placenta to your baby. Although the vaccination has not been tested on pregnant women as it is unethical, it has been used since 2004 with excellent safety records.
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