Whooping cough reinforces need for precautions

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First it was seasonal flu. Then it was H1N1 or "swine" flu. Now comes a report that a case of pertussis, or "whooping cough," has been reported in Southwest Nebraska.

At this rate, it's going to be a long winter ...

What's pertussis like?

First, you cough for several minutes at a time, and after you cough, you may make a "whooping" sound when you breathe in. You might even vomit or stop breathing for a few seconds after coughing.

Scary in an adult, but downright terrifying in a baby -- who may need hospitalization to make sure they are eating and drinking enough and breathing normally.

If you exhibit any of those symptoms, see your health care provider, who may prescribe medicine for you. If it is whooping cough, you should stay home for five days after beginning medication, but expect the coughing to last on and off for up to three months, even if you take your medicine.

It's spread by coughing or sneezing, and although you can get a shot to help prevent catching it, you may still contract pertussis.

There's been a steady increase in the number of cases of whooping cough in the United States, which makes it all the more important that children receive the recommended vaccinations. They should receive four vaccinations for pertussis by the time they are two years of age. It comes in the Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTP) vaccination. Your healthcare provider may to see your vaccination record if being seen for suspected whooping cough.

All the more reason, despite upcoming holiday gatherings, to stay home if you're sick, cover your coughs or sneezes and use hand sanitizers.

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