Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis (or B. pertussis). Severe coughing spells accompanied by a "whooping" sound at the end of each spell is the main characteristics of this disease. It has mainly affected the infants below 6 months old and kids ranging from 11-18. The disease attacks this group because infants wouldn't be immunized before 6 months and 11-18 range kids have less immunity.
The first symptoms will be so much like common cold, with runny nose, mild cough etc. After 1 to 2 weeks, the dry cough slowly evolves as coughing spells. The child may turn purple or red during the 1 minute long coughing spell with "whooping" sound at the end. This whooping usually produces at the time of breathing in. You child may even vomit during this; however, he might be feeling good in between these spells.
Though whooping sound is characteristics of this illness, it may not always be true in everyone's case. Such as, infants could be an exception. They may just turn red while gasping for breath and even stop breathing for few seconds during some spells.
Pertussis is highly contagious. It mainly spreads through coughing, sneezing etc. Contact with even a drop of the cough could make you affected. Two weeks since the cough started is the most contagious period. However, use of antibiotics can shorten the contagious period.
There is a vaccine available for pertussis. DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) immunization package has pertussis dose as well. Usually it is given before your child's 6th birthday, in 5 routine doses. As an additional safety, a booster dose is preferred when your kid becomes 11 or 12. This new immunization is called Tdap, and you can omit the usual Td booster routinely given at this age, in case you are going with Tdap. As with every other vaccine, special cases and exceptions are subjected to in this case also. Your physician would be the best person to advice on this.
Since it is highly contagious, dealing with the patient in close quarters could lead to infection. So it is recommended for all the family members to take a dose of antibiotics protection. The time between infection and the onset of symptoms, also known as incubation period, is about 10 days; nonetheless, it could go up to 21 days.
The duration of the pertussis could go up to even months. Starting with 1 to 2 weeks of common cold symptoms, then the coughing spells can last for weeks or months, finally, the recovery period may also take several weeks; making it a disease lasts for a longer while. So make sure that you don't miss the vaccines.
Call your doctor immediately, when you doubt that your child has pertussis. Antibiotics treatment will be given for 2 weeks, and it would be enough. Medication could be most effective in shortening the infection, when it is given before the coughing spell period.
At home, make sure that your child gets the prescribed amount of antibiotics dose at the right time. Allow him to take rest. Avoid the things which could accelerate the coughing spells, e.g. aerosol sprays, tobacco smoke, and smoke from cooking, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves etc. Also, your kid may not eat enough, due to the frequent coughing, so make sure that he eats adequately. Also, encourage him to drink lots of fluids. Such care would be mostly enough at home.