Pertussis, also commonly known as whooping cough, is a disease of the respiratory tract that is extremely contagious and can quickly spread throughout an entire household. The reason why it is known as “whooping cough” is because someone who is infected has a harsh hacking cough that precedes a whooping sound when they inhale to breathe.
Who Is Most Affected by Pertussis?
Although the disease was long considered one that young people get in childhood prior to vaccinations being created against it, people of all ages can get it. However, infants are the most susceptible due to their immune systems not yet being fully developed. Children and pregnant women should always be vaccinated against the disease. In the case of pregnant women, when they receive the vaccination, it helps to protect the unborn baby against pertussis as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Pertussis
After a person has been infected with pertussis, it can take several days for signs and symptoms of the illness to manifest. Initially, symptoms are similar to those of the common cold and include the following:
• Nasal congestion
• Red, watery eyes
• Runny nose
Once a week or two passes after infection, the symptoms of pertussis get worse. Mucus thickens in the airways, which results in a hacking cough that is difficult to control. If the illness becomes severe, the following symptoms occur:
• Extreme fatigue
• High-pitched whooping sound when inhaling
• Reddening or blueness of the face
Many adolescents and adults who come down with the disease do not exhibit the whoop sound when inhaling. This is often a symptom that babies develop, even if they don’t cough. In severe cases, an infant may struggle to breathe or stop breathing altogether.
Risk Factors for Pertussis
Eventually, the vaccine you received as a child to protect you against pertussis wears off. As a result, teens and adults may be more apt to become ill if there is an outbreak of the condition. Infants are at a much greater risk of developing whooping cough if they are under two months old. Such young babies are not old enough to receive the vaccine, which makes them more susceptible to getting sick.
Getting the whooping cough vaccination is currently the most effective way to stay protected against pertussis. Handwashing and wearing masks can help stop the spread of bacteria.
Pertussis is a serious disease; be sure to seek medical attention if you or your loved ones are presenting with symptoms of pertussis so that you can be on the road to recovery and not spread it to others.