Also called Pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It is characterised by a persistent, dry and irritating cough that comes in intense bouts. When
the child gasps for breath between these bouts, she will make a “whooping” noise.
The coughing can last for three months, which is why it is also sometimes known as the “100 day cough”. Whooping cough can be serious in young children, especially babies under a year who are at risk of life-threatening complications.
Early symptoms are very much like a common cold and include a dry, irritating cough, runny or blocked nose, sneezing, watering eyes, sore throat and mild temperature.
After a week or so the second stage (the paroxysmal stage) begins and symptoms intensify. These include: severe coughing bouts lasting between one and two minutes that bring up thick phlegm, a “whoop” sound between coughs (not always) and vomiting after coughing.
Babies and young children may not make the “whoop” sound, but may gag or even stop breathing for a few seconds.
Blueness in the face during coughing fits.
Child may look as if they are choking (gagging and eyes bulging).
Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect whooping cough.
Your doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics. Babies less than a year old may need to be hospitalised. Ensure plenty of bed rest. Push fluids and watch for signs of dehydration (see “D”).
Paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used for pain.
Never give aspirin to a person under 18 unless directed to by a doctor.
Always clear excess mucus or vomit after bouts of coughing so that your child does not choke.
A whooping cough/ pertussis vaccination (DTPIPV/HIB and Td) is included in the state vaccination schedule.