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What can a whooping cough do to a child?

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  • Dr. Alison September 18, 2010

    A whooping cough or pertussis is called so because of the characteristic high-pitched “whooping” sound that is produced when breathing in after a severe bout of coughing. The “whoop” is produced by the breathed in (inspired air) trying to pass through a partially closed airway as a result of inflammation and swelling.

    This type of cough is characteristic of a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. Whooping cough, which most commonly affects infants and young children, may be prevented by immunization of children with pertussis vaccine which is usually given in combination with diphtheria and tetanus.

    The symptoms in the first stage of the disease may resemble a common cold. The typical whooping cough may develop after a week or two and is particularly observed in infants and young children. In children less than 6 months of age the typical whoop may not be present but they may turn blue due to lack of oxygen during a bout of coughing. Vomiting and turning red after a bout of coughing is common in children.

    You can read more about Whooping Cough Symptoms and Pertussis Diagnosis in these articles.

    Serious illness and complications such as pneumonia are common and may be the cause of death in young infants.

    Seizures, asthma, dehydration, ear infection (otitis media), hernias, and encephalopathy (abnormal brain function) are other possible complications.

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