The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a feature on whooping cough. Babies who catch this respiratory infection, also known as pertussis, may have trouble breathing, may develop pneumonia, and can even stop breathing entirely. This serious illness is usually spread by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they’re carrying the disease.
Whooping cough symptoms can look a lot like the common cold early on, according to the CDC, with a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. But after a week or two of this, severe coughing can begin. The illness may last for months and complications may develop.
The coughing can be rapid and violent. After coughing and coughing, a child will have to inhale, which makes a whooping sound. An important note here is that some babies with whooping cough don’t cough at all—instead, they stop breathing. If your child develops a cold that includes a severe cough, see the child’s doctor.
While parenting styles can vary widely, I hope we can all agree that we should do all we can to protect babies from whooping cough. One of the easiest ways to guard against this disease is to make sure your baby gets vaccinated. While you’re at it, ensure that you and your other family members are vaccinated. If everyone around your baby is vaccinated, the risk of passing along whooping cough to your infant is reduced; the CDC has an infographic with more details.
As with any medical decision, you should consult with your doctor and/or your child’s doctor.
Other than vaccinations, the only tips to help prevent pertussis are to wash your hands and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. It’s hard to stop the spread of bacteria, but every little bit can help. You can find out more about whooping cough on the CDC’s pertussis page.