Whooping Cough – what it is and how to recognise it

Pregnant women are currently being advised to be vaccinated against Whooping cough as there has been a recent rise in cases and 9 newborn babies have died this year.

cough girl

Whooping cough usually starts with a sore throat, runny nose and slight fever and they feel generally tired and unwell,  within 2 or 3 days they can develop a cough. The cough can come and go but they then start to produce sticky clear phlegm, and have more regular bouts of choking and persistent coughing fits. Whooping cough in a really recognisable form can take 2 or 3 weeks to develop.

The whooping cough causes the sufferer to produce lots of thick and sticky phlegm and this leads to bouts of a horrible choking cough that can last for a couple of minutes and can cause them to vomit and panic as they have difficulty breathing.  Between the attacks of coughing the sufferer can  appear and feel perfectly well, but the choking attacks of coughing can happen as little as twice a day or as many as fifty.

Only about half patients whoop during the coughing period, which is the sound made as they gasp for breath again after coughing. It is possible for the sufferer to stop breathing after a severe bout of coughing, long enough to go blue and it may cause them to faint. They usually recover pretty quickly, but whooping cough can be fatal and so it is important to be ready to resuscitate if necessary and to get medical help fast if you are seriously worried.

Whooping cough lasts at least 3 weeks and can frequently go on for 3 months or even longer.

Photo credit: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via photopin cc
It is possible for the whooping cough to come back again just when the sufferer seems to be getting over it, this is usually because of a common cough or cold that can bring the whooping cough symptoms back temporarily. They are not infectious for whooping cough in these circumstances.

www.whoopingcough.net/symptoms.htm Dr Doug Jenkinson is a really helpful website and has recordings and videos of children with whooping cough to help you recognise symptoms.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.  The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a First Aid course.

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