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Whooping cough is an infection of the lungs with a bacterium known as Bordetella Pertussis. It usually affects children, though any one can be affected by it.
Whooping cough starts off like an ordinary cold for 7 to 14 days, but tends to worsen with periods of uncontrolled coughing. These are associated with a 'whooping' noise during breathing in between bursts of coughing and can often carry on until the child actually vomits. These episodes frequently cause the child to go blue and can be worrying for the onlooker. Between the periods or spasms of coughing the child seems fine. Often, exercise or laughing brings on a spasm of coughing.
Attacks of whooping cough may last for six weeks or more. Whooping cough is a severe illness, however most children recover fully. On rare occasions, whooping cough may be complicated by brain damage or fits of pneumonia.
If you think your child might have whooping cough you should consult your doctor.
There is a vaccination against whooping cough, which is offered to all babies in the UK in the early months of life, and although no medication which is effective is without potential for side effects, the likelihood of adverse effects from the vaccine is much lower than that from the condition itself. Furthermore, it is said that whooping cough occurs in 85% of all un-immunised children.
The infection is most severe in young children, half of whom require hospital treatment. Antibiotic therapy is most commonly used. Children under 5 or those who have not been inoculated who are in contact with whooping cough may be given antibiotics to prevent infection.