Recently I was talking to a friend of mine, who said she had been coughing so much that she felt like vomiting. That’s a lot of coughing!  She also mentioned that she had been coughing in fits for 3 weeks! Uh-oh, I had a strong feeling she had Whooping cough or Pertussis. She had a low-grade fever and was tired from all the coughing. She was also in her mid 40’s which meant the vaccine she received as a child wasn’t working anymore.

Signs and Symptoms

Whooping cough, which is also known as Pertussis usually starts much like a cold, with a runny nose, low-grade fever between 100 -102 degrees, a mild cough, and feeling that you have a cold or flu. In babies, whooping cough can cause them to pause or stop breathing and turn blue! 

After about 1-2 weeks, pertussis symptoms can become much worse, with repeated strong coughing fits that may cause vomiting and leave a person feeling completely exhausted, just like my friend. As the person coughs over and over again, there is no air left in the lungs and as the person takes a deep breath it produces a whooping sound. 

The coughing fits can become stronger and more violent and last for several months. 

Why Pertussis Is Dangerous

When babies and infants less than age 1 develop Whooping Cough, they may not cough, but instead, stop breathing, turn blue and die!

That’s why babies and young children may need to be hospitalized if Pertussis is suspected. 

Why New Parents Need to be Vaccinated

New parents should get revaccinated because while the pertussis vaccine they received as children were effective, over time the effectiveness can be reduced. This is what’s known as “waning immunity.”

Remember, pertussis is highly contagious and spread in families and wherever people spend a lot of time together. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by other family members, brothers, sisters, parents or grandparents who are caring for them and may not know they are sick. 

This is why pregnant women, their partners, and their families should be vaccinated against Whooping cough before the baby is born. 

It’s recommended that pregnant moms get immunized against several other illnesses at the same time with the Tdap vaccine.

T –  Tetanus

D –  Diptheria

And 

P – Pertussis

You can find more information about Pertussis from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

I’m happy to report that my friend did recover within about a week once she started the correct antibiotic treatment for her Pertussis. Which reminds me, if you know someone who has been coughing for weeks, is exhausted and has been vomiting, suspect Pertussis and get them the care and treatment they need and keep them away from newborn babies and pregnant moms.

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