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What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It typically affects babies younger than 6 months old, who aren’t yet protected by immunizations, and kids ages 11-18, whose immunity is starting to fade. Pertussis causes severe coughing spells, which can sometimes in a whooping sound when the child breathes in. 

Symptoms The early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold including a runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, and low-grade fever. About 1-2 weeks the irritating cough will evolve into coughing spells which can last more than a minute and cause a child to turn red or purple. At the end of the coughing spell, the child may make the characteristic whooping sound when breathing in. Between these spells, the child usually feels fine. 

Pertussis can last for up to 10 weeks, or more. Later symptoms can include the long-lasting coughing spells, vomiting, turning blue from not getting enough oxygen, and feeling lethargic. Complications from whooping cough can include incontinence and broken ribs from the coughing spells.

Treatment Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics, so if you suspect your child has pertussis, please see your child’s pediatrician immediately. Early treatment is very important as antibiotics will shorten the length of the infection, but even if they are started later they are still important in stopping the spread of the disease to others. Back at home, remember to follow the schedule for giving antibiotics exactly as your child’s pediatrician prescribes. Do not give over the counter cough medicine unless instructed by a doctor. Practice good hand washing, keep your home free from irritants – such as smoke, dust, and chemical fumes – and make sure your child stays hydrated with plenty of fluids.

Prevention Pertussis can typically be prevented with the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine. DTaP immunizations are routinely given in five doses before a child’s sixth birthday. For additional protection, experts recommend that kids ages 11-18 get a booster shot of the new combination vaccine (called Tdap). Tdap should also be given to adults who did not receive it as a preteen, as well as pregnant women during the second half of their pregnancy.

Getting the vaccine is especially important for people who are in close contacts with infants, such as new mothers, because babies can develop severe and potentially life-threatening complications from whooping cough. 

Mesa Pediatric Urgent Care and Gilbert Pediatric Urgent Care

It can be scary any time your child is sick, but rest assured that AllKids Urgent Care is here to help guide you every step of the way with a caring and knowledgeable pediatric staff. Both our Gilbert Pediatric Urgent Care and our Mesa Pediatric Urgent Care are open every day, from noon to 10 PM no appointment is necessary, just stop in and start your child on the road back to health.

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