Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that causes a severe cough and can spread easily from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Washington state health officials estimate the state will see an increase in the number of whooping cough cases that has not been experienced in decades.
Early on, whooping cough usually causes sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, a mild cough and other cold symptoms. After one to two weeks, the cold symptoms improve, but the cough worsens, often causing severe coughing attacks that can lead to gagging, choking and breathing problems. After two to six weeks, the cough starts to improve, but it can take several weeks to months for the cough to go away completely.
Whooping cough gets its name because many people make a “whoop” sound when they breathe in after a coughing attack, but not everyone with whooping cough makes this noise.
Doctors usually treat whooping cough with antibiotics, which does not kill the bug, but can help fight the infection and keep it from spreading. People living with the infected person might also need to take antibiotics — even if they aren’t sick — to keep them from getting the infection.
Most babies need to be treated in the hospital because of the severity of the infection. In the hospital, doctors can watch a baby closely, providing oxygen, fluids and nutrition as necessary.
— Abigail Aiyepola, ND, LM, naturopathic physician, licensed midwife and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.
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