As you may have heard, whooping cough, or pertussis, has been diagnosed in children in southwest suburban Crestwood.
At Alzein Pediatric Associates, we are concerned for these children and hope they recover completely. Because whooping cough is a highly contagious, life-threatening infection, we want our families to have complete information about this illness.
What is pertussis or whooping cough?
Pertussis is caused by bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria settles in the respiratory system and releases poisons which damage the lining, causing airways to swell.
How would my child or I contract this?
Pertussis is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or shares breathing space closely with another. The disease is most contagious up to about 2 weeks before coughing symptoms begin, so babies tend be infected by older siblings, parents, grandparents or caregivers who are probably unaware they are infected.
What are the symptoms?
Pertussis usually begins with cold-like symptoms; a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, violent and frequent coughing fits begin, followed by a “whoop” as children try to inhale deeply after coughing. Coughing fits leave children exhausted and can trigger vomiting. Coughing fits will increase in severity and frequency as the disease progresses. These symptoms can last up to 10 weeks.
Click here to listen to the cough and the “whoop”.
Should I worry about my baby?
Pertussis is most dangerous for children under the age of one year. Many infected babies don’t cough at all, but experience apnea, causing breathing to cease, depriving their brains and body of oxygen. Coughing fits can cause bleeding behind the eyes and in the brain, resulting in permanent damage. Babies with pertussis commonly contract pneumonia. About 50% of babies who contract pertussis must be hospitalized.
Should I worry about my toddlers and other children?
Older children may also contract pneumonia, experience convulsions and suffer brain damage or bleeding behind the eyes.
What about me and my teens?
When you’ve been vaccinated, your symptoms will be less serious. However, you may experience complications caused by the coughing fits. These include rib fractures, weight loss, incontinence (loss of bladder control) and fainting.
How do I protect my family?
Most importantly, make sure everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated. As this vaccine’s protection fades with time, make sure your preteens, teens and adults get the booster Tdap which will protect from pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus. Don’t be afraid to request that grandparents and caregivers get that booster too. Click here for some helpful advice in making that request.
Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer like Purell.
What if I think we’ve been exposed?
If you or your child has been in close contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with pertussis and you suspect infection, make an appointment with Alzein Pediatrics immediately. We’ll do a physical examination and may test mucus or blood samples. If you or your child test positive for pertussis, we’ll prescribe a course of antibiotics and provide instructions to minimize the risk of spreading it to others.
Sadly, about 20 children in the U.S. die from pertussis each year. At Alzein Pediatric Associates, we want your whole family to be safe from this disease. If you have any concerns, questions about boosters, or would like to make an appointment, call 708-424-7600. We are always happy to spend time answering your questions!