Whooping cough, also know as pertussis, is a bacterial infection that affects the upper throat, causing one to cough. It is highly contagious and can be contracted from being in the presence of someone who is infected, because the bacteria can be transmitted in tiny particles of saliva emitted by coughing. Pertussis usually takes three to 12 days for symptoms to appear, and the symptoms can last for six to ten weeks. The infection progresses in three stages. The first stage consists of mild cold symptoms (mild cough, runny nose, watery eyes), but this is when one is the most contagious. In the second stage, the cough gets worse but other symptoms clear up. In the third and final stage, the coughing becomes more infrequent, but can relapse if one contracts another illness.
Immunization is the most common form of prevention. The vaccination for whooping cough consists of a series of five injections, which are usually given in combination with vaccinations for diphtheria and tetanus. It is recommended that the first shot is administered to babies starting at two months. Hand washing is also an important form of prevention, for pertussis and other infections, particularly if you have been around anyone with a severe cough.
Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics, primarily to prevent patients from spreading the infection to others. Antihistamines or over-the-counter cough suppressants, like cough drops and cough syrup, have not been shown to be effective. It will also be important that those who have whooping cough to aid their immune system as much as possible in fighting the disease. This includes:
- Get plenty of rest
- Avoid as much stress as possible
- Stay in a relaxing environment, because too much physical stimulation can provoke coughing fits
- Avoid polluted air, like smoke from cigarettes or fireplaces
- Stay hydrated
Some suffer from vomiting because of the coughing, particularly children, so small meals are recommended. Also those who live in dry climates find that vaporizing their room helps relived coughing, yet some do not find relief from this.
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