Pertussis or Whooping Cough

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1 The Emily Center Diagnosis/Disease/Illness Este folleto se encuentra traducido al español. Solicitelo al enfermero o médico. #1336 Name of Child: Date: What is pertussis? Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a respiratory illness. It is caused by bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) that can spread from one person to another (contagious). What are the signs and symptoms of pertussis? Pertussis can cause illness in infants, children, and adults. In most, it starts like a cold, maybe with a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike a cold, the coughing fits of pertussis can go on for 10 weeks or more. The pertussis cough is fast and violent. You cough over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud whooping sound. This can make you throw up and be very tired. In teens and adults, especially those who have had the vaccine, the infection is often milder and there may not be a whoop. Pertussis is most dangerous for babies. Infants with pertussis may not even cough. Instead, their breathing may pause. This is called apnea. More than half of infants who get the disease must be hospitalized. 1 of 5

2 Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include: runny nose a slight fever mild cough infants breathing may pause (apnea) Later symptoms can include: many rapid coughs, then a high-pitched whoop throwing up being very tired after the coughing fit coughing fits may get worse at night Recovery is slow. Over time, there are fewer coughing fits, and they are not as severe. However, if the person gets another respiratory infection, like a cold or the flu, the coughing fits may return. How does pertussis spread? Pertussis is only spread from person to person. A person with pertussis coughs or sneezes while close to others, who breathe in the bacteria. Many children get pertussis from siblings, parents, or caregivers who might not even know they have it. The time between exposure and symptom is usually 7 to 10 days. But sometimes symptoms can start 5 days after exposure, or not for 6 weeks. A vaccine can help protect you from pertussis. However, if pertussis is in your community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch it. If you have been vaccinated, the infection is usually less severe. If you or your child has a severe cough or a cough that lasts for a long time, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor. How do I know if my child has pertussis? A doctor can tell if your child has pertussis by: finding out if your child has been near someone with pertussis finding out if your child has the signs and symptoms of pertussis taking a sample of your child s secretions to test in a laboratory 2 of 5

3 How is pertussis treated? Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. If treatment starts before the coughing fits begin, it can make the illness less severe. Treatment can also help prevent the spread of pertussis to people who spend a lot of time around the child. What do I do if my child has been exposed to pertussis? If your child or anyone in the family has pertussis or has been exposed to pertussis, ask your doctor what treatment is needed. Often, those with close contact to the person may be given antibiotics, to prevent or reduce the chance of getting pertussis. If you want to learn more, go to Now that you ve read this: p Tell your nurse or doctor the signs of pertussis. (Check when done.) p Tell your nurse or doctor how to keep pertussis from spreading. (Check when done.) If you have any questions or concerns, p call your child s doctor or p call If you want to know more about child health and illness, visit our library at The Emily Center at Phoenix Children s Hospital 1919 East Thomas Road Phoenix, AZ Disclaimer The information provided at this site is intended to be general information, and is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of examination, treatment, or consultation with a physician. Phoenix Children s Hospital urges you to contact your physician with any questions you may have about a medical condition. Tuesday, October 25, 2011 DRAFT to family review # 1336 Written by Esther Muñoz, RN, BSN, CIC Illustrated by Irene Takamizu 3 of 5

4 The Emily Center Diagnosis/Disease/Illness Este folleto se encuentra traducido al español. Solicitelo al enfermero o médico. Name of Health Care Provider: Number: 1336 For office use: Date returned: p db p nb Family Review of Handout Health care providers: Please teach families with this handout. Families: Please let us know what you think of this handout. Would you say this handout is hard to read? p Yes p No easy to read? p Yes p No Please circle the parts of the handout that were hard to understand. Would you say this handout is interesting to read? p Yes p No Why or why not? Would you do anything differently after reading this handout? p Yes p No After reading this handout, do you have any questions about the subject? p Yes p No 4 of 5

5 Is there anything you don t like about the drawings? p Yes p No What changes would you make in this handout to make it better or easier to understand? Please return your review of this handout to your nurse or doctor or send it to the address below. Fran London, MS, RN Health Education Specialist The Emily Center Phoenix Children s Hospital 1919 East Thomas Road Phoenix, AZ Thank you for helping us! 5 of 5

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