The symptoms of whooping cough usually take between six and 20 days to appear after infection with the Bordetella Pertussis Bacterium. This delay is known as the incubation period.
Whooping cough is very much in the media as more and more children are dying due to contracting this disease which had been thought to have been eradicated and incidences greatly reduced. However this is now not the case as more parents are refusing to immunise their children, and also immunity may have become reduced in those who have been immunised.
Pregnant woman are also advised to have the immunisation to protect their babies until the child is old enough to have their own immunisation.
How does Whooping Cough present itself?
Whooping cough tends to develop in stages, with mild symptoms occurring first, followed by a period of more severe symptoms, before improvement begins.
The early symptoms of whooping cough are often similar to those of a common cold and the child may present with:
These early symptoms of whooping cough can last for one to two weeks, before becoming more severe.
The second stage of whooping cough is often called the paroxysmal stage and is characterised by intense bouts of coughing. The bouts are sometimes referred to as ‘paroxysms’ of coughing.
The paroxysmal symptoms of whooping cough may include:
Each bout of coughing usually lasts between one and two minutes, but several bouts may occur in quick succession and last several minutes. The number of coughing bouts experienced each day varies, but is usually between 12 and 15.
The paroxysmal symptoms of whooping cough usually last at least two weeks, but can last longer, even after treatment. This is because the cough continues even after the Bordetella pertussis bacterium has been cleared from your body.
Infants younger than six months may not make the ‘whoop’ sound after coughing, but they may start gagging or gasping, and may temporarily stop breathing.
Though very rare, it is possible for whooping cough to cause sudden unexpected death in infants.
Young children may also seem to choke or become blue in the face (cyanosis) when they have a bout of coughing. This looks worse than it is, and breathing will quickly start again.
In adults and older children, the paroxysmal symptoms of whooping cough are far less severe than in young children, and may appear more like symptoms of a milder respiratory infection, such as bronchitis.
Eventually, the symptoms of whooping cough gradually start to improve, with fewer and less extreme bouts of coughing occurring. This period of recovery can last up to three months or more.
However, intense bouts of coughing may still occur during this period.
You should always see your GP if you think you or your child may have developed whooping cough.
If this is the situation, then you will need to be prescribed some antibiotics.
You should seek immediate medical advice if:
Call your GP immediately. If this is not possible then call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or your local out-of-hours service.